By Norb Franz, Macomb Daily Staff Writer
Published: Friday, July 24, 2009

Who let the dogs out?

That's what Warren officials could soon be asking residents whose pets get loose or are allowed to roam too often.

A revised ordinance being considered in Michigan's third-largest community would force dog owners to keep close watch of their canines. Even if man's best friend is friendly to neighbors without its master, the owner could be prosecuted and forced to keep the pet in the yard.

City Attorney David Richards said "control" of a dog is key. Any dog not in control of its owner or keeper is considered "at large." An unleashed dog in his own front yard or driveway is OK if the pet's owner is on the property.

"Even if a neighbor doesn't care," explained Richards, "if somebody lets the dog out and it's running around the neighborhood and the neighbor says, 'It's fine, the dog's welcome to run around my yard,' doesn't mean the dog's under control."

City ordinance already requires dogs to be on a leash when on a public street, sidewalks, parks or other public places. Under the proposed change in the law, a dog owner or person convicted twice before in a 5-year period of allowing any dog to be at-large, would be required after a third violation to keep any dogs inside a fenced enclosed yard, or leashed at all times when the pet is outdoors. Violators also could face up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

"It allows the court to put on more of a penalty than it did before," $#@!istant City Attorney William Hackel III said.

Richards predicted that few tickets will be issued when a dog ventures only a few doors down the block. Violators are more likely to be cited if the dog is blocks — or a more considerable distance — away.

City Councilman Robert Boccomino, whose family recently got a Jack Russell terrier puppy, said the measure could prevent an animal from getting hit or biting someone.

"They should not be out alone," he said.

In May, 60 stray dogs and cats were rounded up by the city's animal control officers.

Councilwoman Donna Kaczor Caumartin believes loose dogs pose a safety concern.

"We need to control our animals. We need to protect the citizens," she said.

The proposed ordinance is the second of what's expected to be a series of laws involving dogs that started with concerns about pit bulls. Council members have ordered the city's legal department to revise a proposed ordinance regulating pit bulls — including mandatory muzzling and a breeding ban. Angry critics don't plan to roll over, and charge that the law unfairly stereotypes several terriers. City officials in Eastpointe and Mount Clemens also are considering restrictions targeting pit bulls.

Other anticipated Warren laws for the dogs will deal with excessive barking, licensing fees, vaccinations including rabies shots, situations requiring mandatory confiscation by police, limits on breeding and implanting of identification computer chips.

Warren has approximately 7,900 valid dog licenses, according to the City Clerk's office.

New law targets loose dogs - The Macomb Daily News: Breaking news coverage for Macomb County, Michigan