BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – A move to give local law enforcement more tools to deal with aggressive animals, has been tabled for a second time by county officials.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, an ordinance was presented that would give more latitude to the county sheriff’s department in dealing with what is defined in the ordinance as “out of control animals”.
Supervisor Ron Fedler asked the ordinance be tabled for the first reading until Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber and Lee County Attorney Clinton Boddicker can iron out a few of the details in the new ordinance. Weber and Boddicker both agreed that just a couple of sentences needed to be changed and then the ordinance could move forward.
‘I just want to make sure we get this right the first time,” Fedler said after the meeting. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of one word that can cause a problem.”
Boddicker said the purpose of the ordinance is to replace the original version. He said he took all language out that referred to an “animal control officer” and replaced it with the authority of the Lee County Sheriff or its designee and added language in the ordinance that makes it illegal for owners to “allow dogs or companion cats to attack persons or domestic animals or to destroy property, or to allow such dogs or cats to place persons in reasonable fear or attack or injury”.
The ordinance would allow the sheriff to impound any animal in violation of the code.
“This is similar to Keokuk’s code and I spoke with Tom Crew, the animal control officer, and he said this is a very important part. This does give the sheriff in section 2, the running at-large section that says that a dog or companion cat running at large may be apprehended by sheriff’s deputies so it gives them the opportunity to resolve the issue without a ticket.”
Weber said the current climate makes this ordinance necessary.
“This is something our department has resisted for some time,” Weber said. “What we don’t want is anyone being held hostage in their own neighborhood because of an irresponsible pet owner. It’s my job to provide protection for them and we don’t have any mechanism in place. The last thing I want is for my deputies to discharge their weapon into an animal who doesn’t know it’s doing anything wrong.”
Weber said the department has taken a three-fold approach to the problem including the ordinance, a new code for patrols in the trouble areas, and partnering with the Fort Madison PAW no-kill shelter to try and handle the situation from all angles.
“The new ordinance is just a spoke in the wheel of what we’re doing to combat this situation. This ordinance will allow us now to do something.”
Boddicker said state code doesn’t provide any remedy for these situations so the ordinance will allow the sheriff to impound that dog and that’s the purpose of this change.
“The sheriff is not in the business of rounding up dogs but this does give him the authority to do something in these types of situations.”
Weber said the Iowa code is very clear that it’s the sheriff’s duty to destroy a dog that doesn’t have a rabies or ownership tag on it.”
In other action, the board
•approved the first reading of an amendment to the rabies control ordinance which passed unanimously.
•approved a first reading of an ordinance reflecting changes to Iowa law for use of consumer fireworks between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. on July 4 and the Saturday and Sunday immediately preceding and following July 4; between the hours of 9 a.m. on Dec. 31 and 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1; between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. on the Saturday and Sundays immediately preceding and following Dec. 31. Permits will still be required for displays in unincorporated areas of Lee County.