Pit Bull attacks and concerns by residents and officials about a growing number of dangerous dog calls caused the city of Saginaw, Michigan, to pass a comprehensive dangerous dog ordinance, which went into effect in June 2011.
Saginaw City Chief Inspector John Stemple told mlive.com on November 12, 2012, that the ordinance has been “very effective” in its first year, and it has helped lower the amount of dog attacks in the city.
"Dogs used to be the main thing my guys had to go out for," Stemple stated. "I had a scanner that I would listen to for all of the dog calls. That used to be the top things my guys did. Now it's not anymore.
"When they're out for other stuff, they keep an eye out, but it's not nearly as bad as before. It used to be a really heavy load," Stemple said.
Stemple said the ordinance has been a positive for U.S. Postal employees, meter readers and residents.
The number of reported dog bites in Saginaw fell from 24 in 2009 to only 9 in 2011. "There are a lot less roaming dogs on the streets now," Stemple said.
The provisions of the ordinance include that dog owners in the city must register all dogs whose breed is deemed "dangerous" at the City Clerk's office, post a "Dog on premises" sign in the front of their homes and, when outdoors, keep their animals either on a leash or within a 4-foot-high fenced area or kennel.
The breeds included in the ordinance are Pit Bulls, Presa Canarios, Bull Mastiffs, Rottweilers and German shepherds.
"It was the government reacting to a problem, and if you look at the numbers, it's been very effective,” the Chief Inspector stated.
Eighteen months after Saginaw created its dangerous dog ordinance, there are 882 registered dogs in the city. Not registering an animal specified in the ordinance can result in a fine of $100. Residents can also receive tickets for illegal tethering.
CITY LAW-ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS ISSUE DOG-REGISTRATION CITATIONS
A very important aspect of this ordinance, and a growing trend, is that it includes cross-training of various City agencies with law-enforcement powers. City code-enforcement officers, police officers and firefighters can all issue tickets to residents who don't register their dogs, post the signs and restrain them while outdoors.
Stemple also said employees at Consumers Energy, the utility company that serves the area, and the U.S. Postal Service have reported that the signs and tethering rules have made their work safer.
SAGINAW PLAGUED WITH DOG ATTACKS BEFORE ORDINANCE
Saginaw city officials passed the ordinance in response to fears and demands by Saginaw residents and a rising number of 911 and other calls regarding threatening dogs and attacks.
In 2009, three pit bulls viciously attacked a Saginaw woman in Buena Vista Township. Her neighbor ran to help her and began to hit the dogs with a stick. He was finally able to push the victim into a car for safety.
He then climbed onto the hood of the vehicle to escape the dogs, but the Pit Bulls caught hold of his pant legs and dragged him to the ground where they savagely mauled him. The neighbor, Duane Vanlanham, lost four fingers and several toes in the attack. The dogs also tore a chunk of muscle from the back of his leg.
Saginaw residents were also still alarmed and grieving over an August 2005 attack by two Pit Bulls at the Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square. The dogs killed two goats and a rooster in the petting area and nine other animals were attacked, including goats, sheep, and cattle.
After reviewing the attacks, officials said governing dogs became a priority, mlive.com reports.
DOG OWNERS FACE INCREASING FINES OR COURT FOR NON-COMPLIANCE
Chief Inspector Stemple said some residents have received multiple citations, with increasing fines. The resident can end up in District Court if he or she refuses to comply with the ordinance, but typically, we just talk with the dog owner about the details in the ordinance, and they comply," Stemple said.
"We continue to watch to see what effects — positive and negative — the ordinance has," said Saginaw Mayor Greg Branch.