Dogs have town and owners growling

An Orrick family’s dogs have been the target OF a city police crackdown for repeated pet violations – and the constant citations have the family ready to bite back at the city.
The drive down Orrick’s Front Street at 4 p.m. can be a quiet one. Pull up to 409 Front St. and park in front of the house, and a few or all three rust-colored dogs chained and laying under the car port will glance at the new action in front of them. Get out, and they’ll raise their heads. Start walking toward the door, and the welcoming committee for Sharon McGlothlin and her son Jefferey Stapleton letS anyone within earshot know company is in town.
“Rowwwt! Rowwwt!” If one does it, the rest might sing along if they know the words.
Orrick police have cited Stapleton and McGlothlin at least 10 times so far in 2009, mother and son said, for animal violations including property damage to a house next door, exceeding the number of dogs allowed per home, lack of dog licenses and animals at large. City attorney Kevin Baldwin has promised the citations will continue as long as McGlothlin and Stapleton remain in violation of city animal ordinances.
Meanwhile, Stapleton and McGlothlin are ready to take their own action.
“It’s harassment,” Stapleton said. “They keep . . . pushin,’ I’m gonna file charges against the city.”
Both have been arguing the citations on multiple fronts. McGlothlin has denied responsibility because the dogs belong to her son, who lives in a small house behind hers. Baldwin has an answer to that: “I don’t care. She owns the house – the dogs are considered property. If that property is located on her property, she’s responsible for it.” Baldwin said the stipulations stem from complaints received by city officials from citizens feeling threatened by the dogs.
Stapleton and McGlothlin say the city has issued tickets to them one right after another without giving them any time to address the problems. They received a continuance at their July 15 court date to address the issues but have received four total citations between the two. Stapleton owns the dogs and lives in a small house on McGlothlin’s property. He has been cited by the city because he owns the dogs, and McGlothlin because they live on her property. Their next court date is July 17.
“It’s not harassment if they continue to violate the law on a daily basis,” Baldwin said. “It’s no different than if you’ve got a guy that speeds and is ticketed and speeds off again.
These people had enough time, enough warnings and enough information to try to take care of this stuff.”
Stapleton said they are each respectively now under the legal limit for dogs. They gave away five dogs last week, and have three housed at McGlothlin’s house and two at Stapleton’s, not counting three puppies Stapleton said have not been weaned from their mother yet and Baldwin said would not count toward the limit under the law. Baldwin said the property is not divided in that manner, but that they are welcome to present the defense in court.
McGlothlin and Stapleton say they’re being singled out, that the dogs on their respective properties aren’t the only ones in the city running loose. Neither Baldwin nor City Alderman Todd Wyse sees it that way.
“The safety of people is the issue,” Wyse said. “Complaints come to City Hall and to City Council meetings, so we have do our due diligence to make sure the safety of people in the city limits is the most important aspect.”
According to Baldwin’s estimate, the city confiscating the dogs would carry a hefty price tag. Between care for each animal and transportation to the Ray County Animal Shelter, confiscating a dog carries a $1,000 price tag the city can’t absorb. Baldwin said the city is unwilling to absorb that cost on behalf of “irresponsible pet owners.”
New legislation that becomes law Aug. 28 nudges the stakes up further still. The law will not only subject dog owners to strict liability for injuries, but permits attacking dogs to be killed on sight in self defense, which Baldwin said he has instructed Orrick police officers to do should the dogs menace anyone.
Baldwin said should such an attack instance arise, he would seek felony child endangerment or assault charges, depending upon the instance.
“Number one, we don’t have the necessary equipment to handle a vicious dog,” Baldwin said. “And number two, I don’t think any of the people of Orrick or any of our officers should be placed in jeopardy at all.”
In the midst of all this, passers-by might keep an extra-careful eye out driving by the house. With the adult dogs on chains at either of the two houses, a little rust-colored puppy with a touch of black fur here and there sometimes wanders around in the yard.
It’s young enough to still wonder what all the fuss is about.

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