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City Council: Dog laws need more teeth
Committee to study vicious dog ordinances, make recommendations
new deh city council pic
A crowd packed the Great Bend City Council Chamber Monday night as the council discussed what to do about vicious dogs. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Anyone Great Bend resident wishing to apply to be a part of the City Council committee to discuss vicious dogs can do so by sending a letter to the City of Great Bend, P.O. Box 1168, Great Bend, KS, 67530, attention Mayor Mike Allison. It needs why they are interested in participating. The deadline is this Thursday.

In other business Monday night, the City Council:
• Approved two resolutions  authorizing transfers from the Sales Tax Incentive Fund and the General Fund into the Convention Center Fund. City Administrator Howard Partington said the moves were made to satisfy a request from the city’s auditors.
• Approved the leasing of 10-acre tract of land at the Great Bend Municipal Airport Industrial Area to National Cooperative Refinery Association. The agreement calls for a 15-year lease with at a rent of $1,000 per year and a 15-year lease at $1,500 per year. The company would be constructing a new building at the site which is north of Sunflower Diversified Services and the old Coke warehouse, City Attorney Bob Suelter said. It will be an office building with a shop attached.
• Approved a request to rezone 1017 and 1019 Morphy from R-3 (multi-family residential) to C-2 (general commercial) to allow for the construction of a building so one of the one of the Dollar General stores can relocate on the east half of the block. The Planning Commission had unanimously recommended the action and no one opposed the rezoning at the commission’s meeting.
• Approved a request for a cereal malt beverage license from the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce. The chamber sought a one-day license for a June 1 beer garden at Jack Kilby Square in connection with June Jaunt from 4-11 p.m.
 • Approved abatements: For accumulation of refuse at 1617 16th, owned by Jonathan Johnson; 1447 16th, owned by Gene Nguyen and 1215 Van Buren, owned by Evelyn Klusener; for refuse and motor vehicle nuisance at 1408 11th, owned by Ernesto and Paula Fernandez; and for motor vehicle nuisance at 1615 8th, owned by Caroline McCune, and 204 Elm, owned by Mathew O’Conner and Anita Taylor.
• Heard an update on the activities of city departments from Partington.

 Great Bend residents George and Zola Weber said they love living in this community. But now they live in fear of their neighbors’ pit bulls and suggested to the City Council Monday night it ban such vicious dogs from inside the city limits.
Ultimately, the council decided on the formation of a committee to study the matter and look at the possibility of putting more teeth into existing city ordinances.
The Webers, who live on Hubbard two blocks south of Riley Elementary School, have two boys (ages 11 and 9) at home. They Webers said they are concerned for the safety of their boys, as well as for the safety of others.
“I realize this is a hot topic,” George said. “I love dogs, too. I’m not here to cause problems.”
He stood at the dais amid a council chamber packed with pit bull supporters and those who agreed with his point of view. There were even people sitting on the floor and standing in the hallways.
“But, put yourselves in my shoes,” he said. “This is our last resort. I just don’t know what to do about this.”
For 10 years, they said they have tried to be understanding and patient with their neighbors. “If the dogs got out we didn’t press charges or file a complaint.”
But the dogs were loose more frequently and they got more aggressive. They said the family didn’t take very good care of the dogs and they were out on a weekly basis.
The fence on the property is inadequate. The dogs are chained, but they sometimes break free.
“We’ve been chased and our kids have been chased,” Zola said. “I don’t want my kids getting hurt.”
Then, someone in the audience shouted “everything you say is about the owners, not the dogs.”
Mayor Mike Allison quickly silenced the disruption. He was trying to prevent the discussion from devolving into a bickering contest.
The Webers said a ban is one possible answer. They pointed to a similar ban in Ellinwood.
“I understand,” Allison said to George. “It’s going to be a difficult situation to deal with.”
Council member Allene Owen also said she was sympathetic. “No one should be afraid of their neighborhood.”
But, “what is a vicious dog?” Pit bulls terriers can be very aggressive, but so can other dogs,” Owen said. “It’s not a breed.”
The City of Great Bend already has ordinances requiring dogs to be secured on their owner’s property, banning dogs at large and limiting to four the number of dogs a person can have.
“I know George’s problem,” City Attorney Bob Suelter said. Two and half years ago, he oversaw a court order requiring the neighbors to remove all dogs. They were not allowed to have dogs on their property for two years.
That order has expired and the dogs are back.  
In the end, the council voted to form the eight-member committee. It will be made up of two council members, to administrative staff members, two members from the Golden Belt Humane Society and two from the community at large.
Anyone wishing to apply can do so by sending a letter to the City of Great Bend, P.O. Box 1168, attention Mayor Mike Allison saying they want to participate. However, these must be submitted by Thursday.
Allison will select two from all of the applications received.
City Administrator Howard Partington stressed that all the committee’s meetings would be announced in the media and open to the public, and public input is welcomed.
Since it is such a hot issue, the council wanted to take its time. Any action will have to be done by the full council at an upcoming meeting, where the public is again welcome to speak.
This is a good idea, council member Nels Linberg said. He also suggested they get ideas from officials in Dodge City, who have grappled with this same issue. “There’s no point in reinventing the wheel.”
In the meantime, Partington said the Humane Society will step up enforcement of laws on the books.