City Council Takes First Step in Changing Animal Ordinance

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Des Moines city council has approved the first reading of an amendment that would make dog owners more accountable for their pets. It passed with vote of 6 to 1, with Councilman Skip Moore as the only "no" vote.

The proposed amendment involves two major sections, changing of terminology and adding a habitual offender section to the ordinance.

The goal is to focus in on owners who have had multiple offensives over a five year stretch. In the current ordinance, there is no carry over for multiple offenses to the owner; each offense is put on the animal’s record.

If the amendment to  ordinance passes two more readings, dog owners would be classified as a habitual offender when they have two or more offenses in that five-year time-frame. At that time, the owner will be subjected to additional fines and will be required to attend a session with a chief humane officer to get the dog back.

“It’s not just designed to be punitive or where we are imposing a sanction,” said James Butler, Des Moines Police Animal Control. “It is also designed to be educational. So you can be aware there are other tools out there that can assist you. So you can be a better, more responsible pet owner.”

The committee would also like to change the term “vicious” dog to a “high risk” dog. They hope that will help in public perception of certain breeds.