The Fort Stockton City Council approved changes to animal control and “dangerous-dog” ordinances at its Feb. 12 meeting.
Fort Stockton Chief of Police Ryan Skelton, who made the presentation to the council, spoke with The Pioneer to unpack some of the changes and to explain the new requirements that have been put into play.
“If a dog commits unprovoked acts (attacks) and causes injury to a person or another domesticated animal, then it is deemed as dangerous,” said Skelton. “The ordinance was changed to include attacks on other domesticated animals such as dogs and cats. Before, the ordinance was only for dogs that have attacked humans, so this is one of the major changes made – it's more strict.”
The new ordinances also expands on an animal being a public nuisance to include “molesting passing vehicle or people, attacks on other animals, trespassing on school grounds, repeatedly being at large, damaging public or private property, excessive or untimely noise, having bitten two or more people, or having been impounded three or more times in a 12-month period.
“A provoked attack is completely different,” he said. “If the dog attacked because of food or someone's harassing it, then that's a defendable provoked act (attack). In that case we take a proactive approach and will investigate the situation further.”
Dangerous dog types
“There are two types of dangerous dogs; there's registrable and un-registrable,” Skelton said. “An un-registrable dog is one that has already bit (attacked) and caused bodily injury to a person (or domesticated animal). We're not going to allow the owner to keep that dog in the city.If the owner wants to keep the dog they have to take it somewhere out of the city where they can control it. If it's in the city, we (FSPD) have the right to pick it up and get an order to destroy it.”
Going into detail on what's classified as a “registrable” dangerous dog, he said, “A registrable dangerous dog is one that has been reported to have attacked another dog (or domesticated animal) without proof of the incident. We'll let the owner keep the dog, but it has to be registered as a dangerous dog. There's a $50 fee and the owner is required to have $100,000 worth of liability insurance, the dog needs its current vaccinations, it needs to be fixed or neutered to where it can't reproduce, it has to have a proper enclosure that has to be inspected by our officers, a beware sign outside the enclosure warning the public of the dangerous dog, the dog has to wear a tag identifying it as deemed dangerous by the city,it has to be muzzled at all times if it's being walked outside of its approved enclosure, and the FSPD needs to be notified if the owner wishes to sell or move it.”
Fines for violations of these updated ordinances have also increased to up to $200 per day. On dogs citizens feel threatened by, he explained the Fort Stockton Police Department (FSPD) can now investigate dogs and deem them dangerous before an attack occurs.
“If someone reports a dog to be very aggressive, we can investigate to see if that dog should be deemed as dangerous, even if it hasn't attacked a person or domesticated animal,” he said. “If the dog displays an aggressive nature and looks like it could potentially inflict harm, then we can deem it dangerous just off of its behavior before it actually hurts anyone. The old ordinance required an attack to happen first”
Skelton says new residents are not exempt from the updated ordinances, and that dangerous dogs that have moved here from other cities or states must be registered.
“If someone moves to Fort Stockton and they have a dog that was deemed dangerous by another city or jurisdiction, then it's deemed as dangerous here as well – that doesn't go away, it's comparable to a registered sex offender.
“There's some pretty specific laws when it comes to dangerous dogs now. All of this information is already on the City of Fort Stockton website under codes and ordinances for residents to access. With these new ordinances our calls are already increasing with animal control. I'd just like to ask the community to be patient with us, because we're trying to stay on top of it and introduce these new laws as smoothly as possible. We're trying to keep up with all the calls. If a resident has an animal control complaint, they must first call dispatch at (432)-336-4600.”
For more information on the ordinances, visit cityoffortstockton.com. A copy of the ordinance changes also appears as a legal notice in today classified section (pages B3-7) in this edition of The Pioneer.