Prairie Village is updating how it handles cases of dogs or cats accused of attacking or threatening people or other animals.
The City Council on Monday considered an initial draft of the new animal control ordinance that would expand the number and severity of dangerous animal categories and hand over the job for determining whether an animal fit in those categories to the city’s Municipal Court.
Council members tabled discussion on the new ordinance until next month to give some of them additional time to ask questions.
While not afflicted with an unusual number of dangerous animals, Prairie Village has seen a number of owners in the past year ask the City Council to overturn animal control officers’ determination that their dog is “dangerous.” Owners of dangerous animals face a steep list of requirements to keep the animal within city limits, including getting a permit, adding warning signs to their property and maintaining hundreds of thousands of dollars in liability insurance.
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Council members have said they were uncomfortable handling the quasi-judiciary appeals and felt the current ordinance was too restrictive, requiring a dangerous designation in even borderline cases.
Under the new ordinance, a dog or cat can still be deemed dangerous if they aggressively bite, attack or otherwise endanger other people or domestic animals without being provoked. If they merely bite or aggressively chase people or animals, they can be considered “potentially dangerous” and their owners must meet a lower level of restrictions.
If a dog or cat inflicts serious injuries on people or animals and has a prior history of being dangerous, the animal can be designated “vicious,” and the owner would have to either remove the animal from the city or have it euthanized.
Animal control officers would need to ask the city prosecutor and municipal court to determine if an animal fit into one of the three categories.
The ordinance makes no change to the city’s prohibition on residents owning pit bull breeds. Prairie Village is one of only three cities in Johnson County that restrict pit bull ownership.
Council members raised a number of situations they felt were not covered in the ordinance, such as whether a roommate should be held responsible for a dog’s actions while the true owner is out of town or whether other pets, such as ferrets, should be covered.
Police Chief Tim Schwartzkopf said that while the new ordinance is more specific in many areas, it can’t detail everything.
“We can’t legislate every act that happens in the world,” Schwartzkopf said. “We have to trust our staff. I believe they are going to use good judgment in the field when applying the ordinance.”
In other business, the council voted 9-1 to appoint Chad Herring to fill the Ward 1 council seat vacated this spring when former Councilwoman Ashley Weaver resigned. Herring is the pastor at John Knox Kirk Presbyterian Church in Kansas City. Herring will serve the remainder of Weaver’s term, which ends in 2020.
The council also voted 7-3 to repeal the Countryside East Overlay District, a package of development rules and design guidelines created in 2014 affecting the Countryside East Homes Association bordered by 63rd Street to the north, Roe Avenue to the east, 67th Street to the south and Nall Avenue to the west.
The city’s planning commission recommended repealing the overlay after city staff reported problems administering the guidelines. After multiple meetings with residents and home association members, the neighborhood largely agreed that changes were needed. The council said the repeal will not go into effect until after the first of the year to give the homes association more time to implement changes to neighborhood covenants.
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