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STURTEVANT — The Village Board continues to wrestle with the question of just what sort of vicious-animal ordinance makes the most sense for Sturtevant, with no clear indication of just where the issue is headed.

The board discussed the question for more than 25 minutes Tuesday evening, frequently hearing from Joe Villalpando, 77, the resident who touched off the ongoing discussion. His former small dog, Samson, was killed Nov. 4, and Villapando was bitten on the hand, by a neighbor’s German shepherd that had escaped its fenced yard.

Sturtevant’s current dangerous animal ordinance reads in part that an animal is deemed dangerous if it causes two unprovoked bites or injuries to a person or pet within a 12-month period.

In a Village Board discussion last month, Police Chief Sean Marschke said he was looking for a definition of what a vicious animal is. “And, when it’s deemed a vicious animal, then the dog is either euthanized or removed from the village,” he said.

Tuesday, Trustee Carrie Harbach said she had talked with a dog trainer who had a suggestion: that the board not try to define a vicious animal or claim a dog is vicious. Instead, in the case of a bite, the village would consult with an outside expert, a veterinarian or other professional. That person would read the report, observe and work with the dog and make a recommendation.

“I just don’t think we should take on the responsibility of separating a dog from a family,” Harbach said. “… We don’t have the professional background to determine ‘vicious.’ Do we?”

“Because it eliminates emotions,” Harbach said. “It eliminates us being responsible for dividing a family or a resident from what they consider a pet, what we consider possibly an issue.”

She added, “I’m not saying a vicious dog that attacks people or animals belongs in our village. I would just like somebody in that profession to make that decision or help us make that decision.”

Marschke liked that idea and said it would help his humane officer in those cases. “We certainly would welcome that,” he said.

Village President Jayme Hoffman pointed out that a vet would be able to determine whether a dog was in pain and lashed out for that reason.

Trustee John Johnson said that, even with an expert’s consultation, “You still have to write the ordinance; what do you want done at that point? You still have to define that.”

Although the current ordinance defines vicious as two attacks within 12 months, Harbach said, “I think the first time it attacks, it gets evaluated. There shouldn’t even be a second attack if it’s evaluated correctly …”

Other trustees appeared to agree.

At one point Villalpando said, “How can a vet tell you how the dog was acting at the time of the attack?”

In the end, Johnson said he would bring back to the board a couple of draft ordinances to consider at a future time.

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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