Lee County Board members said they want to get it right the first time when the board establishes an animal control ordinance. So a vote on the proposal was pushed back a week to allow for a final review to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Sheriff Stacy Weber told the board that Lee County needs the proposed ordinance, which would make it illegal for dogs or domestic cats to run at large. Pet owners could also face criminal charges if they allow their dogs or cats to attack another person or another animal or if their dogs or cats destroy property.
Weber acknowledged the concerns of Don and Joyce Carlson of Mooar/Powdertown, who attended Tuesday's meeting.
“This isn’t about stray animals, it is about them being held hostage in their neighborhood because we have an irresponsible pet owner,” said Weber. “It is my job to provide them with protection and we don’t have any mechanism to do that.
“The last thing I want is for my deputies to discharge their firearm into the body of an animal because it is doing something that it does not know it should be doing. It’s an animal, it doesn’t know it is in the neighbor’s yard. It’s an animal, it doesn’t know its trespassing or scaring the crap out of them.”
The Carlsons proceeded to tell the county board that for more than a year, they have been tormented by a pair of dogs that their neighbor allowed to run free. Carlson did admit that he shot one of the dogs, but that the other one continues to scare him and his wife.
They described one situation in particular, when Don was confined to their home with a broken leg and Joyce went outside to refill their bird feeders. Don said Joyce was using his walker like a wheelbarrow when the neighbor let the dogs outside.
“They came running out and she was backed against the garage door,” said Don. “She had the walker in between her and one dog on each side. If she would not have had the walker, they would have killed her.”
“I had a hammer inside the walker that I got out,” said Joyce, “and I had a spray of straight vinegar. Finally when I realized I was trapped, I started screaming hysterically and then the neighbors came and called off the dogs.”
Don said he was trapped in the house with his broken leg and what probably occurred in just a couple minutes felt like it lasted an hour. He said the neighbor told them the dogs would not hurt them but Don said they do not go outside with some sort of weapon.
The Carlsons both support the new animal control ordinance because it would help the sheriff’s office better do its job.
Weber said there have been criminal charges filed related to the situation but did not elaborate on them to the board. He said in the meantime, his deputies are conducting regular patrols in the area to make sure the Carlsons feel safe and he is working with an animal shelter in Fort Madison when his deputies come across a stray animal.
“This is what really matters, these two people right here. If they can sleep at night and they can walk out and mow their grass or fill their bird feeders without the fear of their neighbor’s dog attacking them continuously. That’s what this ordinance is going to allow us. It’s going to allow us to prevent that from happening when we have an irresponsible dog owner”
County Attorney Clinton Boddicker first presented the animal control ordinance to the county board in May. At the time, supervisors expressed concerns because it included language that required dogs and cats in rural areas to wear collars with rabies tags visible and it imposed penalties for allowing a dog to bark or howl excessively.
That led Boddicker to cut the original proposal in half and focus on helping the sheriff's office address situations involving potentially dangerous dogs.
“What we tried to do is give some authority to the sheriff,” said Boddicker. “The ordinance gives the sheriff the authority to impound that dog. The sheriff is not in the business of rounding up dogs. This gives the sheriff the authority to do something when a particular dog is a problem.”
Boddicker and Weber said they should have a final version of the ordinance ready for the county board to consider during its June 13 meeting.