Marion commissioners pass vicious-dog ordinance

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Pit bull owners protested a new Marion dog ordinance, but the City Commission passed it anyway Monday after some weeks of work to find a fair solution by City Attorney Dan Baldwin.

The ordinance, which regulates any vicious dog, but especially targets handling of pit bulls and rotweillers, isn’t an excuse “to go after any dog that looks at a person sideways,” Baldwin said.

He said Marion is responding to problems with certain breeds that other communities around it have responded to as long as seven or eight years ago.

“There’s no question that it will be painful to a couple of pet owners in town,” Baldwin said. “I’m not happy about it either, but it’s where we stand.”

Police Chief Michel Soyez said he thinks the ordinance addresses both sides of the issue well, and is less restrictive than it could have been by allowing use of pets within guidelines.

Jack Swain, whose small dog was killed by a pit bull, said he was happy with the ordinance.

Commissioner Jim Crofoot said it was a shame that irresponsible handling of some dogs was penalizing everybody who owned the breeds, especially citing an incident where a pit bull went after cats in a veterinarian’s office.

Melanie Druse said she couldn’t immediately afford required pen space and insurance required for her pit bull, which she called a gentle animal that hadn’t ever offered to hurt anybody.

She said that a requirement that her dog wear a muzzle outside would affect the behavior of the dog as though it was being punished.

Kevin LaBelle said he had been bitten three times in his life, all by small dogs, and he thought it was wrong to single out pit bulls. He said it was cruel to his animal to put a muzzle on it.

Swain suggested it also was cruel when “Mr. LaBelle’s dog wrapped its jaws around my dog’s head, and killed it.”

Peggy Robinson said the ordinance was unfair to “long-time Marion residents with their pets,” and should have more public input.

Baldwin said he will be consulting with a veterinarian on the appropriateness of muzzling dogs, and in the specifics of future cases.

Margo Yates reported for the recreation commission that Terry Edwards has been hired as baseball coordinator, and that plans are pushing forward for other programs such as swimming.

She said Marion is instituting a summer basketball program on Saturdays for third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade boys and girls participating against teams from Canton-Galva, Herington and possibly Peabody.

The Marion children formerly went to Newton, and this change will save the city thousands of dollars as well as keep business in town, she said.

“It’s a program that could explode.”

Susan Cooper, development director, showed new color brochures to promote Batt Industrial Park, the Marion Business Park and the town in general.

City Administrator David Mayfield said he, Public Works Director Harvey Sanders and Librarian Janet Marler met with architects, the contractor and a representative from the light fixture company at the depot last week to look at outdoor lights. One had fallen to the ground and two were hanging by wires. The light company will investigate whether the installation or the lights themselves is at fault.

Mayfield said the contractor also was directed to hire another landscaper, not at city expense, to correct the fact that none of the native flowers and grass that was planted is coming up.

Mayfield said city offices will be closed June 12-13 to allow them to be moved into the old library after the telephone company completes telephone installations.

The commissioners approved the April investment and collateral report and the April financial statement which shows the city has used 21.8 percent of its annual budget to date when the prediction was for it to have used 33.3 percent.

The commissioners approved paying warrants for $83,543.01 including a payment to Westar Energy for electricity of $58,793.30.

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