PAYETTE — A lengthy discussion took place at Payette City Hall on Monday night, as the topic of aggressive dogs made its way onto the Payette City Council’s regular meeting agenda. The matter was raised by Payette resident Jody Greif, who took issue with Section 6.08.010 of the Payette Municipal Code, as it pertains to procedures required for impoundment of dogs deemed ‘vicious’ in the city.
According to Greif, the code doesn’t do enough to protect citizens from dog attacks.
“Simply put, I would like to see the vicious dogs impounded after the first attack, a one-and-done,” said Greif. “If the bite is bad enough, or the attack is bad enough, let’s empower the police or the code enforcement officers to put down the dog. Otherwise, impound them until the hearing with the judge.”
Greif told the council she had been attacked, and her son-in-law has been chased, by an aggressive dog in August.
“I talked also talked to the prosecuting attorney’s office; [They] seemed to agree that dog could not be impounded until the judge makes a decision whether the dogs are vicious,” she added, stating that hearings often take several months. “I was told by code enforcement that they could not pick up the dog unless they witnessed the attack.”
Greif noted police officers did witness the bite marks left on her leg. She also noted that code enforcement officers have advised her to carry a baseball bat or other means of self-defense in case of an attack.
Greif was not alone in sharing her experiences with aggressive dogs, as several others did so during this meeting. Resident Shauna Bain recalled her cat being killed earlier this month by two dogs from the same owner as the one who attacked Greif.
Bain said she knew something was wrong when the cat, whom she named Chester, wasn’t in his usual spot on the driveway.
“I [looked] for him all day and into the night; The next morning I began looking at 6:30 in the morning and still no sign,” said Bain. “Later that morning my neighbor sought me out and stopped me to ask me if the police had been in contact with me, which they had not. It was then that I was told my 19-year-old cat had been violently attacked and violently used as a pull toy by the two Rottweiler dogs that lived at the corner house.”
In addition, Bain said the police told her that Chester’s body had been disposed of in the garbage.
“I am here tonight to ask for the ordinance to be changed to allow for dogs who have bitten, even once, to remain impounded until a hearing with a judge,” she said.
Payette Police captain Gary Marshall, slated to become chief of police on Oct. 1, agrees that the council needed to bring its ordinance up for review.
“However, keep in mind, we have to balance due process along with public safety,” said Marshall. “The standard procedure for us since I’ve been on the department is … the dog owner is provided paperwork that [outlines] the 10-day quarantine process, the required follow-up process and then tenth day, Southwest District Health comes out and inspects the dog, makes sure it doesn’t have rabies and then the dog can come off quarantine.”
The problem with impounding every dog deemed ‘vicious,’ according to Marshall, is figuring out where they would keep all the dogs while they await a judge’s decision.
“We have five dog kennels, and our ordinance officers pick up two, three dogs a day,” he said.
When asked by Councilor Mike Kee what the procedure for taking an aggressive dog if the owner regains control of it before an officer arrives, Marshall said that would require a search warrant and court order.
Prosecuting attorney Mike Duke was present at the meeting. He said that a first hearing notice is issued an average of three weeks after a citation is issued for a dog attack.
“The wheels of justice turn pretty slowly. They do turn, but it is not quick,” said Duke. He notes that under city ordinance, dog owners have to manage a dog on a leash and the dog must be registered as vicious.
Idaho Code 25-2810 further holds owners civilly liable for injuries causes by such dogs, as updated in 2019. It specifies a registration period of two years.
“We don’t destroy it on the first bite, unless it’s very serious, andI can only think of one time that we did do that,” said Duke. “It was when a dog was at large and bit three people,” one of which a police detective in the line of duty.
As this was not an ‘action item’ on the agenda, no action was taken by the council during this meeting.
This section was last updated through Ordinance No. 1270 in 2006, signed by then-Mayor Douglas Henderson.