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Superior Parks Commission seeks tougher animal control standards

A series of complaints about unleashed dogs in public spaces prompted discussion of a leash law.

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Government Center in Superior, Wisconsin.
Jed Carlson / 2019 file / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — City officials are looking to strengthen requirements for pet owners to have control over their animals after people reported numerous complaints about animals running loose in parks, on trails and in other public spaces.

The parks and recreation committee is recommending the public safety committee consider language to strengthen the city’s ordinances to require leashing of all domesticated animals.

Councilor Nicholas Ledin said he’s heard complaints from several constituents about dogs running loose, and the issue came up recently at the public safety committee after Councilor Mark Johnson reported complaints about dogs running loose on the Millennium Trail.

“I think the big issue is irresponsible owners that have the dogs off-leash,” Commissioner Mick McKenzie said. McKenzie said he recently heard from a man who was hospitalized after being knocked off his bike by an unleashed dog on the Millennium Trail.

Linda Cadotte, parks, recreation and forestry director, said she sought the city attorney’s opinion of the city’s animal ordinance and whether it required animals to be leashed. He told her the city’s ordinance was ambiguous.

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Under the animal ordinance, pet owners are allowed to restrain animals by a fence, leash or owner’s command within the owner’s property, so, an unleashed dog that isn’t bothering anyone is not clearly a violation, she said.

"It's the people that don't care that aren't going to have them on a leash anyway," said Tina Anrig, the humane officer. "The responsible dog owners are going to put them on a leash."

Anrig, who took on the role of humane officer earlier this year, said she responds to more animal bite calls than her predecessor and said on average, two people are bitten per week.

As a long-time dog owner, McKenzie made a motion to encourage the public safety committee to create a leash law.

“I’ve had dogs,” McKenzie said. “I’ve had a lot of dogs. Every one of them, when they’re in a public place, they’re on a leash. I don’t want to take a chance that my dog is going to do something. I don’t want to take a chance that another dog is going to come at me when I don’t have control and can’t pull them back.”

Commissioner Liz Noren, who acknowledged letting her dogs off leash at Wisconsin Point when no one else is around, agreed and seconded the motion.

“When people show up, mine are right back on the leash,” Noren said.

“It bothers me when other people’s cats come into my yard,” Councilor Ruth Ludwig said. As a long-time cat owner, she said all domesticated animals should be required to be on a leash.

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McKenzie and Noren agreed to a friendly amendment to include all domestic animals, which was approved by the parks and recreation commission.

Ledin said the public safety committee would consider a leash law when it meets Oct. 20.

However, it’s not clear what additional action the committee would take. The city’s animal ordinance requires animals to be leashed and under the control of the owner or responsible family member when they are not on the owner’s property. Fines range from $50 to $500 for violations of any provision of the ordinance.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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