Dangerous dog ordinance dominates meeting of Trenton City Council

City of Trenton Website

Discussion on the dangerous dog ordinance dominated Monday night’s meeting of the Trenton City Council. The six members participating approved two ordinances, a change order, a revision to water rates, and what were called clarifications in the personnel policy.

Councilman Marvin Humphreys discussed an incident that involved a person being bitten by a dog that was not considered to be a banned breed within the city. Police Chief Rex Ross said a summons was issued to the owner and the case remains in the municipal court. City Attorney Tara Walker said because of the litigation, she could not discuss the case in detail.

Humphreys expressed his concerns that the city was not following its own ordinance when it comes to dealing with dogs who allegedly bite someone. Chapter 210 section 200 states it shall be unlawful for any person within Trenton to own, keep, or harbor any dangerous dog if it meets any of eight criteria. Humphreys contends this particular dog met three of the criteria but yet remained with its owner in Trenton. The first one states any dog is considered dangerous if it has inflicted a severe or fatal injury on a human while on public or private property. Severe injury means any dog bite that results in broken bones or lacerations requiring stitches or hospitalization of the patient. Another criterion indicates a dog is dangerous if while on the owner’s property, it has bitten any person without provocation.

Humphreys said he was told the judge is the only person who can declare a dog dangerous. That’s also in contrast to the provision in the city ordinance which says any dog can be declared by any police officer or animal control officer to be dangerous, vicious, or a threat to public health, safety, and welfare.

The ordinance also allows an option for the owner to file an appeal of a dangerous dog declaration within five days to the Chief of Police, City Administrator, and Chairman of the council’s Administrative Committee for a possible hearing. Discussion also was held on another section which involves confinement of any dog that was determined to be dangerous. Humphreys stated the dog was loose when the incident occurred.

When questioned, Attorney Walker explained the dangerous dog ordinance has a civil process and a criminal process. She noted the civil process is seldom used since it puts restrictions on the dog but doesn’t remove the animal from the city. The criminal process is used after a court summons is issued to the owner who is subject to a fine and or jail if convicted, and the dog shall be removed from the city. But Walker stated this process takes time to work its way through the court. Chief Ross said it’s been 96 days since the dog bite incident. Although interpretations were being offered, the discussion came to a halt when a motion was made and approved six to nothing to refer the issue to the council’s administrative committee.

The council approved two ordinances for Howe Engineering to prepare a facility plan that will be submitted next month to the Department of Natural Resources in order for Trenton to be eligible to be considered for an ARPA grant.

One is for $18,000 to allow an engineering report on the replacement of water mains along Lord Street, Oklahoma Avenue, East 10th Street, Kerfoot Street, and East 16th Street. The other is for $12,000 for Howe to develop a facility plan for the installation of sanitary sewer mains that drain to the Pauper Grade and Pleasant Plain lift stations.

Approval was given to a change order on the 21-inch sewer lining project that goes from 16th Street, across Highway 65, to the south end of the airport. Utility Director Ron Urton said the change order is for $476,628 dollars. He noted the money is available because of the ARPA grant the city received from the government. He explained the change order is added to a previous sewer lining project thus saving the city the expense of writing specifications and requesting bids.

The city accepted the Utility committee’s recommendation to list Grundy County Public Supply District as a wholesale customer when buying water from TMU. As reported previously, there will be no change in the cost to the water district for the first year; then a 2.6% reduction in the cost for each of the next four years.

The council approved changes and clarification in the existing personnel policy, particularly those that relate to paid time off; the use of a major medical leave; as well as a drug-free workplace, and drug testing.

With six councilmen attending or on Zoom, the two who were absent were Duane Urich and Lance Otto.

The council also met in an executive session for legal and personnel.