CHAGRIN FALLS — Ongoing reports of attacks involving unleashed dogs prompted Village Police Chief Amber Dacek to ask the council Safety Committee on Monday to give her necessary legal tools to deal with vicious at-large canines and their owners.
Repeat offender dogs on Coy Lane and Orchard Street are the focus of the current situation, which has caused fear among neighbors, injury and death to some pets.
Chief Dacek made it clear that she was not looking for measures that would outlaw specific breeds of dogs, replace laws already on the books or penalize owners of dogs that get loose occasionally and wander off their property.
“But we do get reports of offender dogs hurting other dogs,” she told the committee members during the virtual Zoom meeting, explaining the courts don’t see a dog as dangerous until the other dog dies or a person is attacked.
“We need to be able to handle the immediate aftermath of an attack,” the chief added. “We have no language on the books that discusses ‘vicious’ or ‘dangerous’ dogs and nothing about being able to seize a dog so it doesn’t get out again and cause more damage,” she said.
At present, the courts can order a dog be put down but often are returned to the owner with just a warning, she said.
“It’s out of my control and up to the courts,” the chief said. “It is not satisfactory when the goal is to keep the community safe.”
Chief Dacek also suggested “levels of citations” from a nuisance barking dog to one that attacks, injures or kills and the power to order the dog be kenneled away from home until the court hears the case and makes a judgment.
The village does not have facilities for holding a dog, she said, but allowing the dog to be home quarantined runs the risk the dog will get out again, the chief said.
Safety Committee Chairman Andrew Rocky agreed with the idea of kenneling and the hardship and cost of doing so should fall on the owner of the offending dog.
He also pointed out the likelihood of a civil lawsuit beyond what the village is able to do in the way of penalties.
Mr. Rocky called for clarified language of a new or amended ordinance that address the police chief’s needs.
The committee heard from several neighbors who have firsthand encounters with the Coy Lane and Orchard Street dogs identified as habitually off leash and a record of attacking people and pets.
A Miles Road man identified him and his dogs as both victims of an attack by three dogs and ensuing expenses of about $26,000. The dogs, he said, are a threat and terror.
Another neighbor said the same dogs began coming onto her front porch even though she has a gate.
She claimed the dog had killed four other dogs in two months and the owner told her it was to be euthanized. It was not.
Another village resident identifying himself as a Cleveland Heights police officer told the safety committee he would like to consult with them from his knowledge of that suburb’s successful dog laws, a private impounding facility and his experience on the job. His offer was accepted.
Village Law Director Dale Markowitz also suggested committee members look at the Avon Lake’s detailed animal code.
Mr. Rocky told the residents he would like to fast track the law and get it into law as soon as possible.
“It is a serious issue, and we are taking it seriously and we will work as fast as we can,” he said.
Councilman Darren Wyville asked if there was anything the village could do in the short term.
“We don’t want to see people taking action on their own,” he said.