In the wake of an incident in which two dogs were attacked and killed in their Howland Drive residence by three mixed-breed dogs belonging to a neighbor, Gahanna City Council has updated its dangerous-animal code and will consider additional changes in the future.
During a special meeting Dec. 11, council approved raising the permit fee for a "dangerous and/or vicious animal" from $500 to $750 per year and increasing the minimum liability insurance requirement from $100,000 to $250,000.
City code also states the permit fee is due prior to Jan. 20 of each year or within 20 days of the designation. A receipt for the fee and proof of the insurance are required for issuance of the permit.
Voting in favor of the change were Karen Angelou, Brian Larick, Jamie Leeseberg, Nancy McGregor, Brian Metzbower and Stephen Renner. Councilman Michael Schnetzer was absent.
Larick, council president, said the dangerous-animal code last was updated in 2002.
He said council received phone calls and emails from residents after the Nov. 30 incident, and most voiced safety concerns.
According to Gahanna police, at 5:07 p.m. Nov. 30, officers responded to Howland Drive on a call that two sheltie dogs had been attacked and killed inside their residence by three mixed-breed dogs of a pit-bull type belonging to residents of the house immediately adjacent to the victims' house.
Police said the attacking dogs apparently broke out of their enclosed backyard through a fence and then pawed open a patio door to enter the neighbor's house.
The responding officers gathered witness statements, obtained evidence, documented the scene, conducted follow-up investigatory measures with the attending veterinarian and requested a deputy from Franklin County Animal Care and Control respond to the scene.
The owner of the dogs responsible for the incident was interviewed and cited with several violations by both agencies at the scene, according to Gahanna police.
Additional investigatory measures by Gahanna police and Franklin County Animal Care and Control are being taken in the matter, and the incident remains under investigation. Police said all available legal remedies are being explored with the appropriate entities in the interest of public safety.
The city's zoning officer looked at the fence of the offending dogs' residence on Dec. 6, according to police reports.
After the incident, Larick said, he started looking through the city's code and it became apparent it was written some time ago.
"We wanted to respond in a timely fashion," he said. "We don't want to do crazy things that aren't sound."
According to city code, a dangerous animal "means an animal that, without provocation, has chased or approached in either a menacing fashion or an apparent attitude of attack, or has attempted to bite or otherwise endanger any person, while that animal is off the premises of its owner, keeper or harborer and not under the reasonable control of its owner, keeper, harborer or some other responsible person, or not physically restrained or confined in a locked pen which has a top and is secured to the ground, locked fenced yard, or other locked enclosure which has a top and is secured to the ground."
The code defines "without provocation" to mean that "a domesticated animal was not teased, tormented or abused by a person, or that the domesticated animal was not coming to the aid or the defense of a person who was not engaged in illegal or criminal activity and who was not using the domesticated animal as a means of carrying out such activity."
Lisa Brosnahan, owner of the deceased dogs, Reilly and Guinness, posted on Larick's social-media page that she's thankful for all the support that has been given and the time Larick has spent on updating the code.
Larick said the first step was to update fees and liability.
He said council would continue to evaluate whether it's reasonable and legally valid in appropriate situations to have officers implement temporary quarantine measures for 72 hours at the discretion of the officer at the scene, based on the available information and circumstances.
In addition, a 10-day extension to the quarantine may be determined by the chief or his designated deputy.
Larick said a third action is more time-consuming and requires a deeper legal review, but council also will complete a comprehensive update of its dangerous-animal code to make sure it is effective and legally strong.
That is expected to occur over the coming months.
"In reading code, there's things that aren't as clear as they could be," Larick said. "In cleaning up the code, we'll see what additional changes can be done and see what's appropriateness for euthanasia. We need to understand if that makes sense."