The County Commissioners recently passed a vicious dogs resolution for Mineral County. Prior to this ordinance, law enforcement officials had no real recourse for victims of dog attacks.
“There has been an increasing number of dog bites, and this resolution tells us how we can and cannot deal with it as law enforcement,” said Mineral County Deputy Brian Funke, who was instrumental in getting the ordinance passed.
In the past, officers could only talk to the dog owners and tell them to make sure their pets are kept fenced. A few weeks ago, St. Regis resident Milton Pierce had nearly 30 chickens killed by a neighbor’s dog. “I had to tell him that there was nothing we could do except talk to the owner,” said Funke.
Jennifer Donovan with the Mineral County Health Department said it is a state law that all dog bites are to be reported due to the possibility of rabies. Since 2012, 90 animal exposures have been reported including dogs, cats, bats and squirrels. Of those, 71 were dog bites with nine reported in this last year.
“This is a big deal,” Donovan said. “It happens frequently and there has been reports of rabies in the county.”
If a dog bites someone, it is the dog owner’s responsibility to show proof of rabies vaccination. If an animal has rabies, it presents itself within 10 days. Dogs are required by state law to be quarantined for 10 days. If the owner can show proof of rabies, they can be quarantined at home. However, if there is no proof of a rabies vaccination, the dog has to be quarantined by a veterinarian at the owner’s expense.
If rabies is suspected, a bite victim may have to undergo a series of rabies shots. There are five in the series, with a final one which can run $7,000 or more, she said. The resolution, 1-3-2019(f), is based on the Montana State Law regarding vicious dogs. Counties can modify the state law but must adopt it for their own county since it is not an automatic law.
THE RESOLUTION is in regard to attacks on humans as well as other animals, including livestock and domestic pets.
Owners can be subject to misdemeanor prosecution and the dog maybe restrained, controlled, quarantined or even euthanized if determined to be vicious by law enforcement officials. Owners will also be responsible for any costs which may be incurred as a result of a vicious dog attack.
The ordinance was passed at the fourth commissioners’ meeting regarding this subject on Jan. 3 during a 6 p.m. public meeting. Several residents attended the meeting with questions regarding the new resolution, including who would be responsible for its enforcement and who determines whether a dog is deemed “vicious” or not.
Mineral County does not have an animal control officer and it is the sheriff’s office’s responsibility. It is up to the responding officer’s discretion to determine whether the owner will be fined and whether the dog is determined to be “vicious.”
OWNERS HAVE the option of taking the case to court like any other ticket or fine, according county attorney Ellen Donohue. When Funke posted the meeting announcement about this resolution on Facebook, he received more than 115 replies from concerned residents — both in support and from those opposed to the ordinance.
“We need more community education and awareness regarding residents’ responsibility for their dogs,” said Donohue. “Maybe owners will think twice (with this new resolution) and not let their dogs roam free.”
The resolution is available to the public at the Mineral County Courthouse in Superior.