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‘Euthanasia isn’t always the only solution’: City of Meridian to update dangerous dog ordinance

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The City of Meridian is updating its dangerous dog ordinance. 

The new ordinance will update some language used in the current code, and it will also change the way the city handles a dog that is declared dangerous. A dangerous dog is defined as a dog that, without justification, caused serious injury to a person, has previously been deemed at-risk and later bites or attacks, has previously been classified as a dangerous dog, or has been previously found to be at-risk and inflicts injury to another domestic animal, not on the owner’s real property.

When a dog is designated as an at-risk dog, that means it bit or attacked someone without justification but did not cause a serious injury, attacked or killed another domestic animal not on the owner’s property, or was previously found to be an at-risk dog.

Right now, if a dog is declared dangerous by the city, it is either euthanized or removed from Meridian. The ordinance update would allow the dog to live and stay in the city if the owners meet a series of conditions and restrictions. These restrictions and conditions include microchipping the dog and putting a “dangerous dog” sign up in a person’s yard.

“Euthanasia isn’t always the only solution and moving it out of the city just makes it someone else’s problem,” Idaho Humane Society Animal Care and Control Director Tiffany Shields said. “This ordinance does allow for a dog that has been declared dangerous to meet conditions and restrictions. And the owner can continue to own that dog in the city as long as they can meet conditions and restrictions to maintain that dog. So we’re abating the threat to the community with the owner complying with these conditions and restrictions.”

Shields said that essentially a dog gets one free “minor” bite. If that dog bites again, it becomes eligible to be declared a dangerous dog.

“So basically, a dog gets one free bite as long as it is as long as it’s a minor bite,” she said. “It didn’t require sutures, they didn’t require medical treatment, then they’re an at-risk dog. So the second bite makes them eligible to be declared dangerous… A dog can be declared dangerous under a single bite. If that bite resulted in a serious injury.”

Another major change that comes with the ordinance is how residents will be asked to report the dog. Under the current code, if a dog is declared dangerous, the owner must appeal this decision with the chief of police. 

With the adoption of the new ordinance, there will be an appeal process which is an administrative hearing through the Idaho Humane Society. The appeal process will help determine if the dog’s bite was warranted- a victim would be in the wrong if the dog was protecting its home or if the victim was doing unlawful activity. 

“When we go to this hearing, I present evidence and witnesses that I believe this dog was not provoked, and this dog caused a substantial injury,” Shields said. “The owner has the right to bring witnesses who also witnessed the bite, and they say, ‘no, the victim was beating the dog at the time of the bite.’ So the hearing process, it’s an administrative hearing. So it’s not in a court of law. It’s kind of like at the DMV. So you have a hearing officer, but they are allowed to bring witnesses, or they can even come in and say wasn’t my dog. You have the wrong dog, so it’s the burden is on us to prove.”

The ordinance will be voted on during an upcoming city council meeting.

Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Meridian and McCall. Contact her at [email protected].

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