Looking at the proposed revisions to the town animal ordinance regarding dogs, Crothersville Town Councilman Bob Lyttle said it was being approached the wrong way.
The biggest change Councilwoman Danieta Foster made was saying residents within town limits could not own, keep, harbor or possess more than one dog that’s considered a dangerous breed. That specified 10 different breeds.
The proposed changes, which passed 4-0 on first reading at the December council meeting, stated those types of dogs must be in a fenced-in area or on a leash at all times.
Lyttle was absent from the December meeting and didn’t get to vote, but he voiced his opinions during the second reading at the Jan. 3 meeting.
“I do not believe we have the right to tell anybody what kind of dog they can have,” he said. “If that would be the case, then we could tell them what kind of vehicle to drive or this or that. To me, it’s not constitutional.”
Town residents at the meeting agreed with Lyttle.
“You can take any dog and make it a dangerous breed,” he said. “The way I see it, we’re looking at this all wrong. We’re looking at animals. We need to look at the owners. The owners are the ones that teach this dog, just like a child, right from wrong.”
According to the ordinance, a homeowner who fails to post warning signs for potentially dangerous and/or vicious animals faces a $50 fine.
The fine for allowing a dog or a cat to run at large or failing to restrain an animal ranges from $20 to $100 for the first offense. The fine increases for each subsequent offense within 12 consecutive months.
In Foster’s proposed changes, if a person received three citations, he or she would be responsible for removing the dog or cat from town.
Lyttle said he doesn’t agree with having the dog leave town.
“Three times is plenty enough time to tell you you have a dangerous dog. I think the person ought to be jailed themselves,” he said. “A dog is going to do what the dog is taught to do. If a dog is not trained right in obedience, it’s a dangerous dog. I’ve got a dog at home, a boxer, and it will act like it will tear you up until you step inside of the fence and it will lick you to death.”
If a dog endangers someone or is out of control, though, Lyttle said police officers have the right to put it down.
“I don’t want anybody hurt. That’s the only thing I’m worried about, and I’m worried about children,” he said. “I’ve told the chief of police (Brent Turner) before, ‘If any animal hurts anybody, you better do something with it.’ Really, if you think about it, it’s not the town’s problem, it’s the people that has the dog’s problem, but we’re the ones that have to deal with it.”
Lyttle asked town attorney Jeff Lorenzo if arresting a dog’s owner after a third offense could be included in the ordinance. Lorenzo said if the person is charged with battery or endangerment, then police could make an arrest.
“Once an arrest is effective, as Brent will tell you, it’s out of his hands, it’s out of our hands as the town council. It’s strictly the prosecutor’s call,” Lorenzo said.
Foster said it never was her intention to make anyone get rid of their dogs.
“I like dogs. We’ve had German shepherds, we’ve had St. Bernards, but there are certain dogs in town that are going to kill a kid. That’s my worry,” she said. “The reason why I put in there after three times that you had to get your dogs out of town was so that we could get those dogs away from other dogs.”
Jennifer Plumm, who recently moved to Crothersville and owns a pit bull, said Foster did a great job with research for the ordinance, but she wasn’t in favor of targeting certain breeds or removing dogs after three violations.
“Let’s define the word ‘aggressive’ or ‘dangerous’ because what’s aggressive to you and aggressive to me are two different things,” Plumm said.
Lyttle said several residents have made complaints and ordinance violation tickets have been issued by the police department.
The town’s mailman has had to pepper spray dogs that have become vicious toward him.
Leslie and Richard Horton, who live on Walnut Street, said they spent more than $2,000 to put up a 5-foot-tall fence outside their home to protect their pit bull/boxer mix and Labrador from a neighbor’s pit bulls.
While recently taking the pit bull/boxer mix out in their yard to play, Leslie saw the aftermath of two of the neighbor’s pit bulls attacking and killing one of the other pit bulls. The two dogs were covered in blood.
Leslie said it happened fast and shocked her, and she quickly took her dog back into the house.
“They’ve got the taste of blood, so when they get loose, they are going to attack someone,” Richard said. “They are out running loose and breaking loose, and they are going to kill some kid or hurt somebody.”
Leslie said the neighbor’s pit bulls bite, snap and growl at each other and have tried to get through her fence to her dogs. One time, she said she had to call the police because the neighbor cut her barbed wire fence.
Currently, the stray dogs police officers or town employees catch either are returned to their owner or the owner comes and gets them. If the animal is impounded, the owner has to pay a fee. Unclaimed dogs that aren’t vicious are taken to Red Sky Rescue, a dog shelter in Medora.
Cats also were included in Foster’s ordinance proposal because several residents believe stray cats are a bigger problem than stray dogs. Cats also must be on a leash or fenced-in at all times.
Plumm said the town should have a separate ordinance for stray cats. She said her in-laws, who are on a fixed income, have used their own money to fix and feed cats that were dumped on their property.
Town resident Rita Brandenburg said if the town limits cats, that may lead to a problem with mice and rats, which could then bring wild animals into town. She also said she doesn’t know how people can keep cats inside a fence.
Town resident Candi Lewis said she’s afraid to let her dog outside because it could catch a disease from a feral cat. Foster said she had a $500 veterinarian bill after her indoor cat got outdoors and contracted a disease from a stray cat.
Brandenburg said Pet Sense has a low-cost program where a cat can be spayed or neutered and have its ear notched.
“That’s not going to take care of the destructive nature of it, but it will make them less aggressive,” she said of stray cats.
After tabling the second reading of the animal ordinance, President Lenvel “Butch” Robinson encouraged the public to submit their suggestions on the ordinance.
Lyttle said residents’ feedback is important.
“Help us all you can to get what we need, and we’ll work this out together,” he said. “Work with us and give us your opinion on what we can do to help the situation.”
To view Crothersville’s animal ordinance, visit crothersville.net/town-ordinances.
The town council is accepting residents’ suggestions on what should be included in the ordinance to control stray dogs and cats. To share your thoughts, contact one of the council members — Butch “Lenvel” Robinson, Bob Lyttle, Danieta Foster, Chad Wilson or Brenda Holzworth — or drop off a letter at the town hall, 111 E. Howard St.