Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder heard plenty from the Sunnyside City Council Monday night on the problems roaming dogs are creating in the community. But the chief stood firm on his belief the direction his department is taking with the issue is working.
Radder presented Council with a report on dangerous dog complaints in response to an inquiry from Mayor Pro-tem Mike Farmer several weeks ago.
Farmer had asked for a report on dangerous dogs following a friend of his being attacked. Farmer had also received several other complaints about dangerous dogs in the community.
Radder provided some history for Council on the city's dangerous dog ordinance. The city adopted the dangerous dog ordinance in April 2002, when several other communities were addressing the same issue. The ordinance basically requires dangerous dogs to be licensed in the City of Sunnyside with a special tag. Under the ordinance, a dog is determined to be dangerous not based on its breed, but rather its aggressive behavior.
The chief said, though, that the city has issued no dangerous dog licenses since the ordinance passed. Radder said when a dangerous dog is encountered, the animal is impounded.
"It has been our position that a dog rising to the level of dangerous should be destroyed in order to protect the community," Radder wrote in his report.
Radder said animal complaints have risen dramatically in the last several years. In 2001, the police department dealt with 291 animal complaints. Last year, the police department addressed 277 complaints. Already this year, the city has dealt with 328 complaints.
Radder attributes the rise in animal complaints this year to the city having an animal control officer from the Humane Society that works in the area four days per week. Radder said the humane society officer has been very aggressive in dealing with dog issues.
The number of reported dog bites in Sunnyside for the year so far has been three. The highest number of reported dog bites in the city came in 2003, when there was six.
The animal control officer for the city has impounded 100 dogs so far this year.
"I think there are just more dogs out there," said Radder of the reason for the increase.
The month when the most dogs were picked up this year was March, when there was 28 animals impounded. The breed that has presented the most problems are pitbulls.
The chief said the police department is taking the appropriate steps to address the dog issue. He said the animal control officer is taking a more proactive response to the situation.
"It appears that we are doing what we should be doing," Radder detailed in his report. "I recommend no change in the ordinance or its implementation."
However, Farmer wasn't quite as agreeable.
"There are a couple of things here that concern me," said Farmer. "I cannot believe right now in the City of Sunnyside we do not have any dangerous dogs. Do we have to wait for someone to get bitten."
Farmer said in the past six weeks alone he has had six dog issues brought to his attention. He cited how there is no consistency in how the police department determines what is a dangerous dog. Farmer also felt the police department should be calling back community members who file animal complaints to tell them how the issue was resolved.
Councilman Bruce Ricks said he felt a more aggressive stance should be taken in dealing with dangerous dogs, and their owners, some of whom Ricks said place intimidating collars on their pets. Ricks pointed out that the owner of the animal is trying to intimidate others and that shouldn't be tolerated.
"We are not making a whole lot of impact," said Ricks in regards to the growing dog problem.
Ricks also suggested the city be more proactive in working with animal owners and veterinarians when it comes to issues such as whether to spay or neuter animals.
At the request of Farmer, Radder said he would do further research into the dog problems in the city.
"I want the dogs taken care of," said Farmer.