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Shorewood officials amend codes regulating dogs

The Shorewood Village Board of Trustees tightened municipal codes regulating dogs at a Feb. 27 meeting.

Trustees Dan Anderson and Dan Warren, joined by Chief of Police Aaron Klima, Village Administrator Roger Barrowman, and Associate Attorney Bryan Wellner, of Mahoney, Silverman & Cross, were tasked last year with reviewing the Village’s ordinance in the wake of a pitbull attack that later led to the death of a Shorewood family’s dog.

Shorewood’s Karen and Rick Strysik approached the Village Board in December 2017 to give an update on their four-legged companion, and the two were on hand last week to find out what course of action the Village can take to prevent similar type tragedies from occurring.

“We basically took out some of the more obsolete parts of the ordinance, and we added more teeth to this ordinance,” Anderson said.

Wellner said the biggest change is they implemented a more structured procedure for how the chief of police makes a finding that a dog is either vicious or dangerous, depending on the circumstance.

“The most important thing throughout that process is having not only the police department involved, but also the victim and the dog owner,” he said.

Once a complaint is made, an investigating officer goes out to the scene to collect some of the initial evidence. A notice will be sent to dog owner, and it is at that point, the investigation is pending.

“What that notice will provide is the dog owner then has the opportunity to come to the investigating officer, provide their own statements, and even provide their supplemental information, such as a behavioral report from a dog expert,” Wellner said. “That will not only assist in helping Chief Klima make a proper finding of whether or not this dog could be dangerous or vicious, but it also provides the dog owners some opportunity for their voice to be heard and for some explanation to be had about what may have happened.”

The way the laws in the state are going, they seem to be going much more dog-friendly, Wellner said. Not only are we giving the Village of Shorewood more authority to regulate these dogs and make sure that the homeowners are safe, but also ensuring that they are heard and a procedure is in place before a finding is made.

“For specifically the dangerous dog finding, what will be presented to Chief Klima is the evidence, and he’ll make a finding simply based on the evidence presented—no specific hearing, an informal process where the statements can be given by the dog owner, as well as the victims,” Wellner said. “He’s making that finding based on what’s presented to him informally.”

As for vicious dogs faced with more serious implications, the dog owner will be provided an administrative hearing, in which they can be represented by an attorney, or themselves, before the chief of police to make their case against the findings.

Once any findings are made, the dog owner is provided an appeal process of 35 days, and a notice will be given out at that time. In those cases, the dog owner will need to make an appeal with the circuit court.

Under the amended code, Shorewood can assess fines, as well as impose measures requiring a stronger leash, muzzle, mandatory confinement, and other restrictions.

The Village is also extended the authority to request that a dog is euthanized in certain cases.

“That is a last resort,” Wellner said.

Another change of the note to municipal codes pertains to making sure that control is given to the Village over a dog if any serious allegations of serious physical injury or death to a dog, or to any person, occurs. In such a case, the chief of police is granted the ability to impound a dog until an investigation is completed.

“It would not be released until either a court orders its release or a finding is made that a dog is not dangerous or vicious,” Wellner said.

Mayor Rick Chapman questioned if there’s anything the Village can do to tweak the code with respect to allowing 35 days for a dog owner to appeal.

Village Attorney Dave Silverman explained that the ordinance is able to affect the results the Village seeks, but also not get overturned on appeals.

The Village passed the original codes with respect to dogs in 2008.

Since that time, the vicious dog has been declared about 8 or 10 times and the dangerous dog has been identified about 40 to 50 times, Wellner said. The ordinance has been improved, especially with respect to vicious dogs.

Anderson said he thinks “We got what we were looking for.”

In a 6-0 vote, the board waived the second read and went on to approve the ordinance, as amended, with respect to dogs.

Round up

A brief recap of action and discussion Feb. 27 at a regular meeting of the Shorewood Village Board of Trustees:

  • A motion was passed to approve a measure withdrawing the Village from Southwest Agency for Health Management and Intergovernmental Personnel Benefit Cooperative.

  • Officials approved a resolution accepting public improvements and releasing the improvement bond in the amount of $351,373.87 for Edgewater Unit 4.

  • A motion was passed to approve a payment of $11,361.37 to Christopher B. Burke Engineering for professional services at Route 52 and River Road Phase III.

  • The board authorized a payment of $376,146.73 to D Construction for an intersection project at Route 52 and Wynstone Drive.

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