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Dogs

Butch Okes walks her dogs Etta and Mia on Thursday at Morad Park in Casper. 

For most of us, our dogs are a part of the family. We love and care for them, despite the shoes they destroy or the messes they make. We train them and walk them, and we keep our yards secure for their safety.

But unfortunately, not all dog owners are responsible. And not all dogs are family-friendly.

There are about 1.3 dog bites every day in Casper, a statistic that has led the City Council to consider a new ordinance aimed at cutting back on dog attacks.

Considering the extent of the problem, we think this is a worthwhile measure.

Under this proposed ordinance, an individual would be declared a “reckless pet owner” if they commit three or more smaller offenses during a two-year period. These offenses include allowing a pet to run at large or to be a public nuisance. More serious offenses, like owning an animal that bites or attacks someone, would get individuals declared reckless pet owners after just two or more incidents within a five-year period. Once declared as such, individuals would be prohibited from owning an animal for five years, or unless otherwise authorized by the courts.

Restrictions like this are absolutely necessary. Individuals who’ve experienced run-ins with aggressive dogs around town or in their neighborhood can’t do much about it, short of personally confronting the pet owner, which could easily lead to further conflict and would do little to address the problem of the animal’s aggression.

And owners of aggressive animals face little to no consequences for repeated offenses. While the animals can’t really be held accountable, someone certainly should be.

Regardless of the reasons why a dog may behave aggressively, it’s the responsibility of the owner to recognize this behavior and learn how to manage it.

Allowing an aggressive dog at an off-leash dog park or keeping one in an unsecured backyard is a public safety issue. And it’s part and parcel of pet ownership to ensure that your animal isn’t risking the lives of other people or pets.

Some are worried that this ordinance would unfairly punish dog owners for common mistakes — backyard jail breaks are inevitable sometimes, and even docile animals can have aggressive outbursts in times of stress.

Those concerns have merit. But we believe there is room for council members to craft the ordinance so innocent mistakes aren’t punished while threats to public safety are addressed.

The City Council should make sure that the ordinance and those enforcing it are looking to penalize the right people — the irresponsible pet owners who don’t keep their animals on a short enough leash. This goes way beyond a dog that barks too much or is a Houdini-like escape artist. This is about keeping pets and people safe.

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