Dog owners make appeal

Efren and Encarnacion Rodriguez as seen at the Fruitland City Council’s Jan. 27 meeting. The couple requested a hearing to appeal a “potentially dangerous dog” designation imposed on their dog by Fruitland Police after a bite incident which occurred on Dec. 28.

FRUITLAND - When their dog was designated as a “potentially dangerous dog” by the Fruitland Police Department, Efren and Encarnacion Rodriguez requested a hearing before the City Council to appeal the designation. On Jan. 27, the couple during the hearing said they had never observed such behavior in their labradoodle in more than two years.

The designation follows an incident on Dec. 28, 2019, where the Rodriguez’ dog while it was unattended, bit a child, according to Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff.

He noted that the “dangerous” designation would be inappropriate, based on his observation when he went to visit the Rodriguez’ residence on Jan. 24.

“I would tell you that the dog is definitely ‘dangerously loyal.’ I’m not so sure that the dog is a dangerous dog,” Huff told the council, noting the “potentially dangerous” designation seems most appropriate in this instance.

In their dog’s defense, Efren Rodriguez said he had never known the dog to be capable of such a thing.

“I have the dog for more than two years; I never see any signs of dangerous dog,” Efren told the Council. “I’m a little confused, I don’t know what happened.”

Encarnacion Rodriguez added that with three kids in their home, she would have taken the dog out of the home if she thought the dog was dangerous.

“We don’t consider him a dangerous dog… He’s just overprotective,” said Encarnacion.

Councilor Stuart Grimes asked the couple if they were outside in the front yard when the incident took place, to which the couple answered no.

Mayor Brian Howell noted that with a low fence the potential for this incident was present if the dog was unattended.

“He obviously was close to the fence,” Howell said.

Whether the child provoked the dog to bite was not determined, according to Huff.

He said this incident boils down to the fact that the bite happened, which can result in “potentially dangerous” designation whether on private or public property.

Under Fruitland City Code Title 5 Chapter 2-15 and 2-16, “potentially dangerous” dogs need to be spayed or neutered and microchipped, under restraint while outdoors on or off the owners’ property, and fees are to be paid as determined by resolution of the City Council, in addition to regular dog license fees. If the dog were declared “dangerous,” the owners would have to insure the dog with a $1 million policy and put a sign up, visible for at least 50 feet, warning neighbors about the dangerous dog.

According to City Administrator and zoning administrator Rick Watkins, since the resolution had passed only one dog has been deemed dangerous, which happened this past July. It is unknown whether those dog owners still reside in city limits.

Councilor Ed Pierson expressed concern about labelling the dog based on one bite.

“This didn’t necessarily require medical attention,” Pierson said.

Councilor Stuart Grimes disagreed, noting that in cases like this a dog could have rabies or something worse.

“If the evidence is there that fits the language of the ordinance, it’s our job to enforce it,” he said.

Grimes motioned to declare dog potentially dangerous, Carpenter seconded. The vote was 3-1, with Pierson voting against, thus the motion carried.

Howell sent the couple on their way with encouraging words:

“We’ll hope that it never happens again. Hopefully he’ll be a good dog for you!”

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