July 21, 2024

Osceola asked to look at-large ordinance, fees

At the June 18 meeting of the Osceola City Council, council heard from a concerned citizen regarding dogs-at-large and the current Osceola ordinance pertaining to them.

Andrea Miller spoke to council about her concerns regarding dogs at-large and citation fees related to them in Osceola. She shared her mother had recently been bitten by a dog-at-large.

It was later found out this incident was the dog’s third citation, and it has since been put down.

Miller has personally had two incidents with dogs-at-large - once while on a walk with her young children, and another time when a dog chased her son in their yard. She brought up these experiences to show the continued issue with loose dogs.

“I feel this is an issue that happens within our city limits and it happens too often. This is not a new problem, but I do feel it’s one that needs to be addressed more aggressively…,” said Miller.

Miller said the fines currently imposed on owners of at-large dogs were not enough of a deterrent to keep dogs from running loose, and that first offenses starting at $150 would be a better starting point, but still not enough.

The ordinance prohibiting at-large animals found in Chapter 55.06 states:

“It is unlawful for any owner to allow an animal to run at large within the corporate limits of the City.

1. Admitted violations imposed by this Code of Ordinances may be charged upon a simple notice of a fine payable at the office of the Police Department. The simple notice of a fine shall be in the amount of fifty dollars ($50) for all first violations, one hundred dollars ($100) for all second violations and one hundred fifty ($150) for all subsequent violations thereafter.”

Miller noted any dog can get loose at any time, but that by having enough of a fine, it might compel people to do a better job of keeping it from happening repeatedly. She also commended the police

department for their timely efforts in dealing with at-large dogs.

Mayor Thomas Kedley thanked Miller for talking with the council. In regards to the fine schedule, Kedley said it had to be kept uniform across different areas, however for biting dogs, the council could look at adding additional fines in addition to euthanasia.

“This has been a little bit of an issue with at-large animals, vicious animals in our community,” said Kedley.

Councilman Tom Bahls questioned how they would define a dangerous, biting dog.

“We need some clear definition other than just saying a biting, dangerous dog, cause that could be any [dog],” said Bahls.

Osceola police chief Marty Duffus said the code is specific about a biting animal in that it doesn’t differentiate between species or breeds.

Chapter 56.01(3) of the code of ordinances defines a vicious dog as,

“A. Any dog with a known propensity, tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked as evidenced by its habitual or repeated chasing, snapping or barking at human beings or domestic animals so as to potentially cause injury to or otherwise endanger their safety; or

B. Any dog of that breed known variously as American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier or Pit Bull Terrier; or

C. Any dog of mixed breed which contains a strain of such breed which is identifiable as such by a qualified veterinarian duly licensed in the State.”

Chapter 56.02 states about vicious dogs,

“Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter or of Chapter 55, no person owning, possessing, harboring or having the care of a vicious dog shall permit such animal to go unconfined upon the premises of such person or permit the dog to go beyond the premises unless the dog is securely leashed and muzzled...”

The chapter does not specifically define a vicious dog as one that bites. Duffus pointed out the use of “habitual” and “repeated” in the code, stating that if those words were removed, the code would just say disposition to attack unprovoked by means listed in the code.

The council then discussed the difference between biting and at-large dogs.

“My thought in coming here today was, the dog was at-large…how do we stop the dog from being at-large and the ability to bite…at what point is enough enough?” asked Miller.

Bahls reiterated wanting to define a dangerous dog, so that someone whose dog may have been accidentally gotten out isn’t given the same heavy fine as a repeated offender.

Councilman Dan Hooper agreed with Miller that the $50 fine is not enough for an at-large dog.

“Sure we [have] a fine schedule, but that’s not for things such as dogs that could bite. These fine schedules are not related to personal injury,” said Hooper.

“Legally, I would urge caution. You need to have a uniform fine schedule so you don’t have bias,” said Kedley.

Councilman Dr. George Fotiadis suggested adding a surcharge to the fine schedule for a chase, bite or knockdown by a dog.

“To me the surcharge should be big, should be maybe $200 or $300…especially a bite or a knockdown,” said Fotiadis.

City administrator Ty Wheeler and Duffus said if the animal bites, they already do go after the dog by way of a hearing with the owner.

After more discussion, Wheeler said city staff would research the at-large and bring findings back to the council. Kedley recommended reaching out to other communities to see how they handle at-large dogs. No official council action was taken at the meeting.

Other council news

Council approved 5-0 a resolution to remove dead or diseased trees at the following locations: 116 N. Sunset Dr., 119 N. Park St. and 229 E. McLane St. The resolution states that the trees pose a risk to adjacent properties, and that the respective property owners were given notices that the tree has to be removed within 14 days, but failed to comply with the notice. Now, the city will have the trees removed pursuant to Chapter 151.06 (2), and the removal costs will be assessed to each respective property.

Several public hearings will be held at the July 2 city council meeting:

• Proposed vacation of the 600-block of E. Webster St. right of way.

• Proposed vacation of the north/south alley in block two of the McDonald’s Addition (600-block of N. Fillmore St).

• Proposed amendments to Chapter 167 pertaining to site plan requirements. Amendments will include changes to minor and major site plan improvement definitions; minor and major site plans in the commercial historic district B-1H will be subject to review by the Historic Preservation Commission; and site plan approvals by planning and zoning commission.

• Proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance to permit modular can and bottle redemption trailers as conditional use in the zoning districts of B-1, B-2, B-3, I-1 and I-2. The conditional use will allow the Board of Adjustment opportunities to review each redemption tailor on a case-by-case basis. Planning and zoning also recommended to city council that they consider banning or limiting where open-air car/bottle trailers may be located.

• Sale of the 102 E. Shaw St. to new owners. This is the new house built by the Clarke Community High School Buildings trade program. The lot is currently owned by the city of Osceola.

All hearings are open to the public and for public comment. Comments may be sent ahead of time to Osceola City Hall in writing or via email. Proposed amendments are also available for viewing at City Hall.

Minutes from the June 18 meeting can be found in the legal section of this newspaper, or on the city’s website.

Candra Brooks

A native of rural Union County, Candra holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Simpson College and an Associate's Degree in Accounting from SWCC. She has been at the Osceola newspaper since October 2013, working as office manager before transitioning to the newsroom in spring 2022.