Animals at large are a chronic problem in Storm Lake, the city council agreed on Monday night.
Police Chief Chris Cole acknowledged the majority of the 313 complaints the Storm Lake Police Department has fielded this year stem from dogs on the loose. People also feed stray cats and they hover around those who harbor them.
Council members Maggie Martinez, Maria Ramos and Kevin McKinney noted the problem was evident.
“I think we do have a problem with dogs in our community. I see the number of people who have dog bites. It’s too many,” Martinez said during a work session on the city’s animal control ordinances. She pointed to vicious dogs that are chained outside with leashes too long.
“I walk the streets of Storm Lake and I constantly see dogs that have leashes that are too long,” she said.
Ramos said there were too many animals throughout town without restraints.
“Pets can be running loose if they don’t have a fence that’s physical or electronic,” she said.
Councilman McKinney pointed to what he thought was an unusually large number of stray cats that roam Storm Lake’s streets.
“We have cat issues,” he said.
The council declined to go so far as to strengthen its slate of animal regulations. Chief Cole said the city’s existing regulations are “reasonable.”
“For the most part it’s a matter of trying to get people to get their dogs and cats restrained and not allow them to run loose,” he said in response to Mayor Mike Porsch, who asked whether the city’s regulations should be strengthened.
Cole pointed to a dozen city and state regulations that are intended to control animals at large.
All dogs and cats are to be licensed through city hall or Lake Animal Hospital. Vaccinations are to be kept current.
Those who feed stray cats are considered to be their owners, Cole said of the existing interpretation of city code. That means the culprit could be responsible for their impounding at Lake Animal Hospital, their required vaccinations, plus other applicable city fines.
“Under the definitions, an owner is anyone who harbors, shelters or keeps a cat or dog. We get complaints where there are several cats around a specific address. If you’re feeding stray cats, you’re harboring those cats, so basically making yourself the owner of those animals,” Cole said. “So we have a lot of problems throughout the city with that. People are trying to feed a stray animal. By harboring it and taking care of it you’re the owner so you’re required to get that animal licensed and vaccinated and so forth.”
Councilman Tyson Rice requested Monday’s hearing after an hour-long council meeting that featured a pit bull that was impounded three times in 18 months for bites.
The council considers the pit bull named Drake to be a vicious animal under city code and ordered its euthanization. City Manager Keri Navratil confirmed the dog was euthanized on Monday. The owner, Garhoth Dak of Sioux City, declined to appeal the council’s finding to district court, she said.
Martinez asked Cole about why the SLPD didn’t pursue vicious animal charges against Drake sooner. She noted there was police response to three bites in 18 months.
Cole replied the first two bites were confined to a house.
“We could’ve potentially addressed that as a vicious animal, but the officer that took the original complaints, they were looking into it. The situation happened on private property,” Cole said. “In some of those cases, kids were involved. You have to weigh, you have to use your best judgment. You obviously can’t predict the future. It happened within the premises of the house.”