Be aware of vicious dog law

FLINT TWP. — The township is looking at putting more teeth into its vicious dog ordinance.

At the June 19 township board meeting, Township Supervisor Karyn Miller gave other board members a copy of the City of Burton’s vicious dog ordinance for review.

“We have a vicious dog ordinance on the books that is difficult for us to enforce,” Miller said, adding that the Genesee County Animal Shelter has limited resources for handling vicious dogs. That leaves it up to police to enforce the ordinance. “I would like to have something a bit more hands-on,” Miller said.

The current ordinance requires that owners of vicious dog register at the township clerk’s office, which is not being done. Going forward, Miller said that she will be working with the township attorney, police chief and building director to update the wording of the current township ordinance.

Trustee Frank Kasle suggested contacting Burton officials to ask how well their ordinance is working for them. He said it looked good on paper.

The township ordinance defines a vicious dog as one that has a propensity, tendency or disposition to attack, to cause injury or to otherwise endanger the safety of human beings or other domestic animals; which has previously attacked or bitten a human being or other domestic animal other than under what would be considered a justifiable circumstance; or which has behaved in such a manner that the owner knows or should reasonably know that the dog is possessed of a tendency to attack or bite human beings or other domestic animals other than under what would be considered a justifiable circumstance.

The Burton ordinance excludes a dog that bites or attacks a trespasser on its owner’s property or one that is being provoked or tormented.

The township ordinance also requires that owners of vicious dogs post “Beware of Dog” signs; provide to the township proof of ownership of liability insurance in a single incident amount of $100,000 for bodily injury or death caused by the animal; provide to the township two color photographs clearly showing the color and size of the animal.

“No vicious dog may be kept on a porch, patio or in any part of a house or structure that would allow the dog to exit such house or structure on its own volition,” the ordinance states.

The Burton ordinance does not stipulate most of those requirements except the posting of “Beware of Dog” signs. It does specifically give authority to police officers to “seize and remove” any vicious dog believed to have attacked or bitten a person or another dog. That includes the use of lethal force if needed to control the dog.

The township board ordinance does not currently have language about police involvement.

Miller said updating the township ordinance is not being spurred by any known attacks by vicious animals.

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