Published Saturday¬ ¬ ¬ ¬ September 27, 2008
Council to consider amending dog plan
BY TOM SHAW
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
A number of changes could be made to Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey's proposed dangerous dog ordinances before any new rules are adopted.
City Council members have introduced several amendments to the proposal. Some amendments would lessen restrictions on pit bulls, while others would toughen requirements for pit bulls and their owners.
The amendments will be considered Tuesday before the council votes on Fahey's entire package of new rules to combat vicious dog attacks in the city.
The rules would cover all pit bulls as well as any dogs deemed "potentially dangerous" because of aggressive behavior.
Under Fahey's proposal, all pit bulls would have to be muzzled in public, and pit bull owners would need to have at least $100,000 of liability insurance. Last week, a majority of the council expressed support for those requirements.
Councilman Jim Suttle opposes the mandatory muzzling. He is offering an amendment that would eliminate the muzzle requirement for pit bulls.
If the muzzle requirement stays, Suttle and Councilman Garry Gernandt propose an exemption for pit bulls that pass a behavioral test administered by the Nebraska Humane Society. The dogs' owners also would need to take a responsible ownership class.
The pit bulls that pass the test would be designated "breed ambassadors, " and each would wear a yellow vest in public to let people know it passed, said Pam Wiese, a Humane Society spokeswoman.
Suttle, however, said he would accept that change as a compromise to totally eliminating the muzzle requirement. He questioned how effective the test would be in reducing attacks, because irresponsible owners probably won't go through the class.
"Good owners will obey the law and bad owners aren't," Suttle said.
Suttle also has introduced an amendment to exempt pit bulls younger than 6 months from being muzzled.
Other proposed changes would toughen restrictions on pit bulls and aggressive dogs.
Gernandt wants a harness requirement for all pit bulls and any dogs deemed dangerous or potentially dangerous by the city.
The harness would have to be used, along with a leash and a muzzle, while the dog is in public. Gernandt said from what he's been told, the body harnesses give owners better control over the dogs.
Gernandt also would raise the age requirement for handling a pit bull or a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog in public. The mayor's proposal sets the minimum age at 19; Gernandt would change that to 21.
The harness requirement and the age change were brought up at a public hearing last week. One of the people pushing for those changes was Wendy Blevins, whose toddler daughter was severely injured in a pit bull attack this summer.
Councilman Franklin Thompson will propose that the muzzle, leash and handler-age requirements for pit bulls last only until Dec. 31, 2010.
Before that deadline, the council would be given a report on the effectiveness of the pit bull rules and could then decide whether to renew the restrictions.
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