By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - During the past three meetings, Iron Mountain City Council members have been discussing the vicious dog ordinance and whether changes needed to be made to it.
Concern over the ordinance was raised after a dog bite this summer. And following the current ordinance, it was determined that the dog was vicious. The judge had ruled that the animal was to be destroyed once she had her litter of puppies and they were weaned.
Through a petition and appeals by people in the community, the dog, Roxy earned a second stay and was not euthanized on Oct. 14. The dog remains at the Almost Home Animal Shelter until the matter is brought before the court again.
More discussion occurred at Monday's meeting resulting in the council introducing a draft of an amended vicious dog ordinance. The council set a public hearing for the Nov. 18 meeting with possible adoption after the hearing.
The current ordinance states that "if the conduct of such vicious dog or its owner or keeper constituted a violation of the provisions of this chapter, punishable by the confiscation and destruction of the animal."
That would be eliminated from the amended ordinance, which would state, "if, based on all the facts and the circumstances of the attack, the dog officer determines that the vicious dog poses a continued threat to the health and safety of the welfare of the citizens of the city of Iron Mountain, provided further that if the attack causes serious personal injury to the victim, the dog officer shall confiscate and destroy such vicious dog. It shall be presumed to be a serious injury if the attack results in the victim requiring medical treatment caused by the vicious dog attack."
In the proposed ordinance, there still is a section that allows for the appeal of a decision to the circuit court if the ruling is made to destroy the dog.
Discussion during recent meetings had resulted in City Attorney Gerry Pirkola making some changes to the language of the ordinance. Specifically, some of the council members were looking to give the judge more discretion on these matters and be able to review the circumstances of an incident on a case-by-case basis. They felt that in the current ordinance, once a dog bites someone, the dog must be put down.
And that's what Pirkola felt that the changes in the ordinance language would do - allow for discretion built into handling these cases.
"But there is no way to draft a perfect ordinance that addresses every single scenario," Pirkola said.
Councilman Dale Alessandrini said he can see both sides of this ordinance and felt that the new language makes things fair and gives the judge some latitude in determining if the dog is to be euthanized.
"But we have to rely on the investigating officer's determination when looking into these cases," said Councilman Bob Moraska. "I think that Gerry has done an excellent job with this and we are giving the court the authority to make these decisions."
While giving the judge more latitude in making decisions, Pirkola said that the language also gives the dog owner some defense other than for trespassing or provocation of an animal.
"It will give the dog owner defense and the city some discretion in investigating these incidents on a case-by-case basis. The current ordinance does not," Pirkola said.
Some things that come into play in a complaint are the seriousness of the bite and if the owner can argue that the dog is not vicious.
Councilman Collin Jacobetti said he was against changing the ordinance and felt that it gave enough latitude to the court to make a decision if a dog was vicious or not.
"We seem to be playing politics to appease a certain person and I'm against that. This ordinance, the way it is written now, opens a door that we might not want to be open," Jacobetti said.
Mayor Bruce Rosen agreed with Jacobetti.
"The dog in question was proven to be vicious," Rosen said. "Sometimes I think we overreact and I hate to see this happen. I question the intent of the council on doing this."
Monday's meeting was also the last one for two council members, who did not seek re-election in today's general election. Both Ted Corombos and Collin Jacobetti were thanked by their fellow council members for all they had done on the council.
Jacobetti said that it had been a real pleasure to serve with the current council members and is was an honor to be able to serve the city of Iron Mountain.
"I'm proud of this council. We have been progressive in our actions. I have been happy to work with Ted (Corombos) and I respect your opinions. I want to thank the people for giving me this ability to serve on the council," Jacobetti said.
Corombos expressed his gratitude to the council for having a street named after him.
"It was very touching. I have enjoyed 80 percent of the 35 years I have served. And although I'm no longer going to be on the council, I'll always be available to help if I can," Corombos said.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is email@example.com.