City Talks Vicious Dogs

ST. MARYS — The mauling of a city meter reader last month prompted the safety-service director to issue a stern warning to irresponsible dog owners in St. Marys.

On April 30, a meter reader was attacked while on his route on Front Street by a dog running at large. Safety-Service Director Jason Little briefed members of St. Marys City Council on the incident during Monday night’s meeting.

“He was attacked doing his job and luckily, he’s OK —  he missed all of last week and is going to miss all this week,” Little said. “We thought he was actually going to have to have surgery on his arm ... He was attacked pretty severely, and that’s a concern of mine. This dog was just running loose — he was doing his job and didn’t do anything to provoke it. He wasn’t even on the owner’s property at the time. The dog came up and attacked him.”

The dog left a tooth in the meter reader’s hat. Little said a passerby witnessed the attack, called 911 and police officers arrived on the scene.

“If he would have been a little child or an elderly person, God forbid, who knows what would have happened,” Little said. “I want to make sure we are all aware of that. These kinds of dogs are out there and we are going to start enforcing it. If they have vicious dogs, we are going to come get them.”

The city has a leash law and a separate ordinance pertaining to dangerous and vicious dogs. Under that ordinance, an owner of a dangerous or vicious dog, which includes any pit bulls,  must have it in a pen with a locked top if the animal is outside. The owner also must obtain liability insurance on the animal, and if the dog is off its owner’s property, it must be on a leash and muzzled. A violation of the ordinance is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor.

Little said the dog’s owner received a citation for the incident. He also said the animal previously attacked another dog.

Robin Willoughby, the 4th Ward councilor, said she believes the majority of owners of these types of dogs do not understand the law. Willoughby encouraged dog owners to be responsible for their pets.

St. Marys Mayor Pat McGowan said the dog involved in the attack was a malamute.  McGowan, referencing the laws regarding dangerous and vicious dogs; noted a child cannot be in control of one in public.

“It was to be led by a person of substantial size and strength that can handle the dog,” McGowan said.

“We are getting a lot of complaints — I think I’ve gotten four last week around the Vine and Beech street areas of pit bulls and dogs just running loose. We had a talk with the chief of police, Jason and I did, and they are going to be enforcing it. We would recommend all citizens, if they see a dog running out like that, call the police. The police will respond and come down.”

Little said the ordinance will be strongly enforced and violators will be cited.

“This case really opened my eyes,” Little said, noting all meter readers are allowed onto residents’ properties to do their jobs. “We still get to read the meters. We have a right — there’s no other way to do it.”

Little also briefed councilors on issues at the miniature golf course in K.C. Geiger Park. The course, which was open via an honor system, will likely now be manned by summer help because of a slew of issues ranging from theft of balls to damage done by children.

“The problem we have is it seems like we keep losing balls and now we are starting to get some of the clubs vandalized,” Little said. “It’s a really nice facility and we want to keep it that way. It’s a shame — we tried to do the honor system ... But I think we are going to have to stop that because it’s not working.”

McGowan said the option to use summer help surfaced because of a lack of volunteer groups stepping up to man the course. Last year, several groups manned the course during limited hours as a way to raise money.

“I had two complaints on Saturday alone,” McGowan said. “One guy was umpiring a game out there and he stopped the game to call police to tell them there were kids in the water fountain doing damage.”

Councilors also heard an update on a proposed dog park near shelterhouse No. 1 at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park. Initial details surfaced during last week’s parks and playground committee meeting. During that meeting, it was revealed the city would be willing to provide the fence for the park, which is expected to be 200-by-300 feet.

The park is being spearheaded by a group of students from the Lake Campus as part of their capstone project. The students are in the process of soliciting funds to cover other costs associated with the park. Members of the parks and playground committee are scheduled to meet at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday to hammer out more details regarding the project.

Councilors entered executive session to discuss compensation of an employee. No action was taken when they re-entered regular session.

In other business, councilors:

• Approved, under suspension of rules and as an emergency, an ordinance authorizing the safety-service director to enter into an agreement for wind energy with AMP Ohio regarding the Blue Creek Wind Energy Facility.

• Approved the second reading of an ordinance amending the codified ordinance related to the city’s bond.

• Approved the first reading of an ordinance revising the codified ordinance regarding the cutting of weeds.

• Approved the first reading of an emergency ordinance authorizing the safety-service director to hold an employee recognition dinner and purchase service awards.

• Approved a resolution of sympathy to the family of Mary Louise Stienecker.

• Scheduled a finance committee meeting for 6 p.m. May 21.

• Rescheduled the next council meeting for 7 p.m. May 29 at the building on Spring Street.