Seaford passes 'dangerous dog' ordinance

By Lynn R. Parks

The city of Seaford has a new dog ordinance. The ordinance was passed unanimously Tuesday night by the city council and will take effect Dec. 20. As did the original ordinance, which had its first reading at the Sept. 23 meeting, much of the law which was passed Tuesday deals with dangerous dogs. But gone is the presumption that a pit bull is a dangerous dog. This comes after dozens of upset city residents packed city hall for the law's second, and what was to be its final, reading Oct. 14. A vote on the ordinance was tabled at that meeting to give city officials time to work out an agreement with residents. Under the new ordinance, all dogs, including pit bulls, have to have a hearing before they are declared dangerous. The hearing can be generated by an animal control officer, police officer or citizen complaint and will be held in front of the city's new board of animal control. It will look at such things as what provoked the dog to be vicious, the severity of the attack, the dog's history and how it acts during the hearing. Citizens will also be allowed to make statements about the dog's behavior. The new ordinance also expands the animal control board from three members, as described in the original ordinance, to four members, including a member of the city council. As appointed by Mayor Ed Butler Tuesday night, Councilwoman Pat Jones will serve on the board, as will building official Josh Littleton. Citizens joining them will be Jodi Birch, a Seaford resident who owns three pit bull-like dogs and who spoke out against the original ordinance, and veterinarian Craig Metzner. Birch spoke in favor of the revised ordinance before Tuesday night's vote. She especially praised the fact that it bans chaining a dog outside. "No dog shall be permitted to be tethered to an object," the law reads. "All dogs shall be securely confined indoors orÉin a locked kennel, pen, fenced area or area [with] an electronic pet containment system." "This could well be a model for other communities, maybe even the state," Birch said. Under the new law, city residents can have no more than three dogs. Exceptions will be granted for puppies and to people who have a retail dog dealer license or kennel license. Residents who want more than three dogs will be able to apply to the board of animal control for an exemption to the ordinance. Dogs will have to be confined or on a leash at all times. And owners will be required to keep the dog's area clean, removing waste daily. That applies even to yards, if the dog is confined to the yard by an electronic system.

A dog that is declared by the board of animal control to be dangerous will have to be confined at all times "unless it is necessary for the dog to receive veterinary care or exercise." When the dog is outside of its kennel, it will be required to wear a muzzle. Owners of dangerous dogs will have to have a city permit, renewed annually, to keep the dog. They will have to have the dog neutered or spayed and will have to have a microchip implanted in the dog for easy identification. They will also be required to carry at least $100,000 in liability insurance, in case the dog bites someone, and will have to notify the city immediately if the dog escapes. The ordinance also prescribes procedures for impoundments of dangerous dogs and, if necessary, killing them.

Council passes weapons ban on city property

Seaford City Hall is officially weapons free. Employees are banned from bringing weapons onto all city property, including city-owned vehicles and at city-sponsored functions, under a new policy passed unanimously Tuesday night by the city council. The ban took effect immediately. "The city adopts this policy in recognition of the danger presented to the health, safety and welfare of employees and members of the public by the introduction of weapons into the workplace, particularly in light of the ongoing threat of terrorism," the new policy says. Assistant city manager Charles Anderson said Wednesday morning that the new policy was not the result of any incident. "We just decided that we needed a policy about employees carrying weapons," he said. Weapons, as defined by the policy, include all firearms, knives, swords, switchblades, razors, clubs, bludgeons, batons, bats, explosive devices and martial arts weapons. It does not include personal security devices and tools that are required by an employee's job. People who carry guns as part of their job, such as law enforcement officers, security guards and licensed private detectives, are exempt from the policy.

News tips wanted
Call us with ideas for news and features. We're always looking for good stories to share with readers. Call Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.