Dog defenders oppose ‘vicious animal’ bill proposed in Warrenton

Adam Rollins, Staff Writer
Posted 9/17/21

Dog lovers had their hackles up last week after catching wind of a Warrenton city proposal for the handling or destruction of vicious animals.

An ordinance proposed to the city’s board of …

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Dog defenders oppose ‘vicious animal’ bill proposed in Warrenton


Dog lovers had their hackles up last week after catching wind of a Warrenton city proposal for the handling or destruction of vicious animals.

An ordinance proposed to the city’s board of aldermen on Sept. 7 would allow a municipal judge to order a dog to be destroyed or banished from the city if it is deemed an unmanageable threat to public safety. For less severe situations, the city would be able to order the owner of a vicious dog to keep it in a locked enclosure and acquire a $100,000 liability insurance policy to keep the dog.

The proposal led to a slew of comments and letters from two dozen area residents who complained that the city’s definition of vicious animal is too broad, and that owners have no means to appeal the decision of a judge.

In brief, dogs that have (while unprovoked) bitten and caused serious injury, attempted to bite, or put someone in fear of serious injury could all potentially be declared as vicious and be subject to restrictions or removal. Under the proposed ordinance, a judge’s order to destroy an animal would have to be carried out the next day.

Dog trainer Chad Frazer said he fears the rules would allow people’s dogs to be taken away over misunderstandings.

“People’s pets can be put in compromised situations if somebody’s fearful,” said Frazer, who used the example of a dog getting loose to chase squirrels nearby other people. “If they make a phone call to the police department and say ‘A vicious dog was charging at me,’ then it’s my word against theirs.”

Nearly all the people who spoke out against the bill also complained that it left no options to appeal a municipal judge’s decision to have an animal destroyed.

“There’s no appeal process included, which is a violation of due process,” said resident Keena Reed.

Responding to complaints over how vicious animals are defined, City Administrator Brandie Walters said the Warrenton’s laws already had these definitions for vicious animals, and that the only new element being proposed is how the city would handle them. The ordinance is meant to provide flexible options for animal control, she said.

“Our animal control officer has many years of experience, and she does everything in her power to never get to this point (of destruction),” Walters said. “She’ll sit down and help people with training their dog ... she goes out of her way to help residents with their animals.”

The extreme measures of putting an animal down or removing it from the city would only be used as a last resort, Walters said.

City Attorney Christopher Graville said the capability of removing or destroying a dog was requested by the city’s police department for situations where there are no safe accommodations for an aggressive animal. He said Warrenton doesn’t currently have a policy for putting down dangerous animals.

“In the situation where there are neighbors who are afraid to leave their house, or afraid to take their children outside, or afraid to have people come over – which was a recent situation we had – I think there’s a balancing we have to do in those situations. ... It’s absolutely a last resort,” Graville said. He reiterated that animal control spends most of its time aiding pet owners, not antagonizing them.

After hearing the discussion, aldermen seemed most receptive to the argument that there’s little chance for dog owners to appeal a municipal judge’s order for destruction of a dog. Graville replied that the ordinance could include 30 days to file an appeal at the Warren County Circuit Court. But that would mean the city has to impound a dangerous animal for that time, which would strain the resources of the city animal shelter, as well as stressing and potentially bringing out bad behaviors in other dogs at the shelter.

At the recommendation of Mayor Eric Schleuter, aldermen unanimously agreed to withhold passage of the ordinance and make revisions to reflect the complaints that had been received.

“I believe an ordinance to this effect is needed in certain circumstances ... but I think we need more clear due process,” Schleuter said. “Some people’s animals are like their children. This is a very sensitive and emotional topic. But the city also has to be able take steps to protect other citizens.”

Warrenton Board of Aldermen, Vicious animal