Newton residents have urged public officials to review ordinances regarding vicious dogs, with one citizen saying the code benefits the animals rather than the victims.
Max Tipton, 86, of Newton, told the town council on August 1 that his wife, Kathy, had been bitten by a neighbor’s dog a few days earlier. Although he was not at home at the time of the incident, he learned that 78-year-old Kathy was outside in the front yard. The dog was on the loose and Max insisted it wasn’t the first time.
“I was just waiting for someone to get hurt because of that dog,” Max said. “Well, my wife was watering the flowers. The dog was free. The little girl held her on a leash. The dog attacked my wife. It could have been much worse. We thank God it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
Council members heard the dog knocked Kathy down and had her arm in its mouth, leaving teeth marks and lacerations. Photos of Kathy’s injuries were shared with Newton News during a follow-up interview on August 15. Although most of the bruises are gone, a large gash is still healing.
“It was all black and blue,” Kathy said, pointing to her forearm. “Something knocked me down. And I’ve been recovering the stress in my back for three weeks. The chiropractor said to me, ‘You’re a bruised mess.’ My doctor sends me to physical therapy.
As a general rule, doctors do not sew animal bites on the hand or foot because there is a high risk of infection. Sewing would only increase the risk of infection. However, depending on the severity of the bite, some doctors will recommend stitches. Kathy didn’t need stitches; the doctors pulled the skin over the wound.
“We’re very lucky she didn’t have a heart attack or worse,” Max said. “I plead guilty to being one of those (people) that you are not concerned about a problem until it happens to you… So I am guilty tonight on this issue. But the city code on the vicious dog, it seems to me from reading that it’s in favor of the dog.
If he were to attack someone unprovoked, Max said he would expect to be taken away in handcuffs. But the dog, he says, is coming home.
“I think the city, and the reason I’m here, needs to revise this city code,” Max said. “And I understand the lack of funds and I know that (JCARL) is closed. I understand all that. And I understand that the police can only operate within the code… But I urge the city to reconsider this.
OTHER RESIDENTS ARE NOTIFIED
Another resident complained about loose dogs and dog bites at the July 18 town council meeting. Donna Stumme, of Newton, said in the past two weeks her neighborhood has had three cases of two loose dogs venturing onto other people’s property. It is suggested that some of these dogs act aggressively.
Board member Mark Hallam spoke on behalf of Stumme saying the number of admissions of stray or thought to be abandoned animals – mostly dogs – to the Animal Rescue League in Des Moines is increasing “significantly” and is on track to surpass last year’s figures.
“These are just the ones reported,” Stumme said. “I know I’ve found two just in my community where the dog walking on a leash killed one pet and then bit another, and it went unreported. Right now we’re on target with 24 bites to far exceed last year.
According to data from the police department, there have indeed been 24 dog bite calls so far in 2022. The previous year had 34 dog bite calls. From 2012 to 2022, there have been a total of 306 dog bite calls. The most occurred in 2019 with 38 calls. The lowest number of dog bite calls occurred in 2014 with 16 calls.
Stumme has also personally experienced vicious dogs. She remembers hearing “vicious barking” in her driveway and quickly called 911. The dog came back about four times and she said the aggression was significant. Stumme also called out the city code, suggesting there are parties that don’t support the victims.
“The problem is everywhere,” she said, insisting that more education and perhaps council action is needed.
Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess said residents with a problematic or vicious dog must comply with a number of safeguards if they want to keep the dog in town. If the owner does not wish to comply with the city ordinance, they can relinquish the property, have the dog euthanized, or move it out of the city limits.
The city has very few repeat dog bite offenders, Burdess told Newton News, which tells him the problematic and vicious dog ordinance appears to be working. However, the bigger issue is prevention and the fact that dog owners are taking a bigger role in being responsible for their dog’s behavior.
Residents who have dogs on the loose are also cited for these violations. Burdess said the city’s ordinance is stronger than others in the state and exceeds state code requirements. Enforcing loose dogs can be difficult for police, but Burdess said a bigger problem is the lack of reporting of dog bites and assaults.
HOW OFFICERS RESPOND TO DOG BITES
The Newton Police Department has seen an influx of dog bite reports this year. The majority of bites reported to police have been of pets that have bitten their owner or family member, and the injuries are relatively minor. But there are cases where people hurt themselves when breaking up fights with dogs.
“That’s not to say we don’t have incidents where someone is bitten by a dog for no apparent reason, but it’s less common. Most of the injuries reported in recent years have been minor, but a few required medical attention,” Burdess said, noting that dog breeds vary but appear to be mixes of pit bulls and husky breeds.
After a serious dog attack in 2010, the City of Newton established an Animal Control Committee that included Newton residents, animal experts, law enforcement and other professionals to review animal ordinances. state and city. The committee also consulted with legal experts to draft the order effective today, Burdess said.
In place since 2012, Chapter 90 of the city code has seen only a few changes over the years to strengthen or clarify the language.
“The city code goes beyond what the state code requires for dog bite and animal control incidents. State code requires some form of animal control measures within a municipality and allows for local control of those measures,” Burdess said, noting that city code offers a broader range of mechanisms. control.
When a dog bite is reported, an officer responds to the incident and investigates. These reports tend to come from the emergency room, a local doctor’s office, the bite victim, or the owner of the biting dog. Burdess said these cases are investigated much like an assault would be.
After obtaining written statements from all parties, officers can make a quarantine decision for the offending dog. If dogs have up-to-date rabies vaccinations, they should generally complete a 10-day home quarantine. Otherwise, the dogs carry out their quarantine in a veterinary office.
It is then up to the chief of police to determine whether a problematic or vicious designation applies to the dog.
If the dog is deemed problematic or vicious, the owner may need to neuter the animal, provide proof of insurance, build a pen, use a muzzle, vaccinate the animal, etc.
DOG BIT A NATIONAL PROBLEM
The city’s free-roaming dog admissions have been higher than normal for this point in the year, Burdess said. However, the trend is not unique to Newton. Several people bought dogs during the pandemic and decided they couldn’t care for or wanted the dog anymore.
With more dogs in the community, this increases the chances of biting incidents. When a loose or loose dog is captured by the police department, they are taken to Parkview Animal Hospital. Upon recovery, the owners of these dogs are then cited for allowing a dog to run loose, Burdess said.
According to data submitted to Newton News by the police department, there have been 92 admissions to Parkview so far this year. The city has also transferred 29 dogs to the ARL, which already exceeds the 27 dogs transferred to the ARL in 2021. Last year, there were 172 admissions to the ARL.
Articles from Forbes, The Guardian and other outlets published over the past 18 months suggest that Burdess’ claims of a national trend in dog bites are true. Several articles blame the pandemic for also limiting the socialization possibilities of dogs.
The city does not have a pet permit program that ensures pets are properly vaccinated. When the dogs are found not to be registered with the city, the police department issues the owner a citation and requires a license.
“Residents are encouraged to call the police department if they see a dog running loose or witness aggressive behavior from dogs that are on property,” Burdess said. “While we may not always be able to do anything legally at this time, being notified of a potential issue gives us the opportunity to discuss concerns with dog owners.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 560 or [email protected]