Santa Rosa council member seeks to toughen city ordinance regulating aggressive animal attacks after 2 cats die

Santa Rosa City Council member Victoria Fleming wants to strengthen the city’s ordinance regulating aggressive animals following last week’s attacks in the Grace Tract neighborhood by two rampaging dogs that residents say killed two domestic cats.

“My plan going forward is to advocate for changes to the order that would allow for accountability and justice,” she said. “I sincerely hope that we will put in place an order that we will not have to use.”

Fleming said she was appalled that the pit bull and sheepdogs were immediately returned to their owners by the animal control officer right after the incident.

“My heart goes out to them,” Fleming said of the two families whose cats were mauled and killed in their own backyards on the night of Feb. 18. “I can’t imagine losing your pet that you consider a member of your family in such a vicious way.

On Wednesday, the owner of the dog pair voluntarily agreed to designate the dogs as “potentially dangerous” under a Santa Rosa city ordinance, an animal control official said.

This means that dogs will now have to stay indoors or in a secure enclosure in their owner’s yard. They will need to be muzzled and leashed and must wear a bright orange collar that says “potentially dangerous dog” when the owner takes them for walks.

Additionally, there will be signs posted at the owner’s expense outside their home to inform people that potentially dangerous dogs live inside.

The owner will also have to pay a registration fee of $148 per year for each dog, and the designation will last for three years. The identity of the owner has not been released by Sonoma County Animal Services.

The two dogs were also quarantined for rabies, as a precaution, for 10 days on Wednesday because one of the cat owners, Matt Malik, was bitten while trying to stop the dogs from attacking his cat. Santa Rosa has a contract with county animal control.

Some residents of the downtown Santa Rosa neighborhood have been in shock since learning about the dogs’ actions.

Lise Butier, who lives in the area where the dogs were roaming on February 18, said she had to hide behind a car in a carport to fend off the dogs after one had her charged. She said she filed a complaint with animal services.

Butier said she was walking down Grosse Avenue and noticed the loose dogs nearby. She said she turned around and started walking the other way.

“As I walked I heard heavy breathing and gasping behind me. Then I heard the gasping coming closer and closer to me. There was really nowhere to go,” he said. she said. “There’s a carport over there and I turned to the carport with a big SUV parked there. … I was thinking of getting on the roof of the car, but there was nothing to step on, so I just hid behind the car. I looked out the car window and saw the pit bull charging at me. I was freaking out thinking ‘Oh my God, people are going to find me mutilated and bloodied.’ ”

She said she kept going around the car saying, “It’s okay, go home” to the dogs. Eventually, they seemed to lose interest in her.

The incident and The Press Democrat’s story about it led people to complain about Santa Rosa’s leash law. They also share their own stories of pets, including two goats, that were killed by aggressive dogs.

Many people in the Grace Tract neighborhood said they had never seen the dogs on the loose before, but according to County Animal Services Operations Manager Brian Whipple, the agency “got a call from the dogs in freedom in the past and there was an incident at a designated dog park, which was handled between the owners of the dogs involved.

Whipple and Santa Rosa Assistant City Attorney Adam Abel said Animal Services Officer Andy O’Brien handled the case properly, following city code.

If the dogs had acted viciously when he saw them, they might have been pepper sprayed and taken to a county facility.

When asked if it was now safe to walk around the neighborhood, Whipple replied, “Absolutely! We have done what we can to ensure that these dogs will be safe in their home and that the owner takes this seriously. »

In 2021, the county responded to 1,604 incidents involving animal bites, Whipple said. This amount is “pretty average; it can fluctuate from year to year,” he added.

Pet owners aren’t always responsible for keeping their dogs indoors or on a leash, and that leads to tragedies, he said.

Under the Santa Rosa ordinance, after an incident in which one animal kills another and a person is slightly injured, the animal is only considered “potentially dangerous” and not “vicious” until that he killed twice or seriously injured a person.

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