GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - To beef up safety measures against dangerous dogs locally, the City of Grand Junction recently approved amendments to rules and regulations of Title 6, regarding animals within the city. With these amendments, Mesa County Animal Services will now be able to supervise aggressive dogs within Grand Junction city limits by enforcing yearly home visits and licensing.
Approved changes mark a movement toward heavier regulations regarding dogs (or other animals) previously found to be dangerous by the court of law. Dangerous dogs are generally classified as having caused bodily injury to a person or another animal.
"The hope is, that with doing this, we have less opportunity and less likelihood that a second incident will occur particularly with the same dog," Assistant City Attorney Jamie Beard said at a Dec. 5 council meeting.
Issues over the last year pertaining to dog attacks and the marketing of dangerous dogs spurred this consideration, City Attorney John Saver also noted Dec. 5.
"We're always concerned when we see dogs exhibiting dangerous behaviors," Mesa County Animal Services Director Penny McCarty said. "Two dogs or more can exhibit serious pack behavior, and there were a few instances last year."
So, what will these code changes mean locally? Mesa County Animal Services will now be able to enforce court-ordered requirements pertaining to housing a dangerous dog indefinitely - like escape-proof kenneling, micro-chipping and muzzles - through yearly inspections. Plus, owners of "dangerous dogs" must now register them with animal services every year for $100.
"We want to make sure that owners of dogs that have been found dangerous by the courts have continued to have their dogs cared for in the manner intended," McCarty added. "Protection is the most important aspect."
In 2011, there were 581 calls to Mesa County Animal Services related to aggressive dogs, 375 calls due to animal bites, and 435 calls related to bite follow-up and quarantine re-check. There were also 5,274 calls related to dogs-at-large issues, and 902 calls related to welfare checks and neglect.
"That's actual cases that we sent to the court," McCarty said. "Some people keep those dogs, some sign them over. The dangerous-dog license will be helpful, so every year we know where those dogs are and their circumstances."
Another aspect of Title 6 amendments include animals that are "habitual offenders." Under changes approved by the City of GJ last week, animal services will now be able to impound dogs who are continuously roaming free until the animal owner can be seen by a judge.
"We occasionally have cases where a dog is continuously at large and not aggressive," McCarty said. "(Before) we had no authority to hold a dog for public-safety reasons. But, it's still a public-safety risk."
One example: "There's the nicest old lab you'll ever meet, but it continuously gets loose and crosses both sections of Highway 50 on a regular basis," McCarty added. "That's putting the dog and cars at risk. The dog is not street savvy, and he'd go right out into traffic. ... We want to protect animals and people."
McCarty said she supports all changes to Title 6 because animal services needs the authority to track past cases to prevent future issues.
"We want to be able to follow up each year to determine compliancy and remind folks of their responsibilities," she said.
Mesa County commissioners will review the same amendments to its animal-control policies Monday, Dec. 17. A cohesive plan to regulate dangerous animals within the City and the County is the ultimate goal.
"It's really hard to have different laws," McCarty said.
Mesa County Animal Services will likely start implementing its new regulations in 2013.
"We'll be going out and visiting people that have been found guilty previously," McCarty said.
For more information about Mesa County Animal Services, visit www.animalservices.mesacounty.us.