By DEREK MOORE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sonoma City Council is considering new restrictions on vicious dogs in response to concerns that the city ordinance does not go far enough to prevent attacks.
The city would define a vicious dog as one that without provocation severely injures or kills a person or other animal. Owners of such dogs would, at the very least, be required to keep them locked up or muzzled when out.
Sonoma does not have a documented problem with vicious dogs. But Mayor Joanne Sanders last year asked city staff to research the subject after a pregnant Pacifica woman was mauled to death by her own pet, a male, unneutered pit-bull named Gunner.
Sanders sparked a public outcry when she later said she personally supported banning the breed in Sonoma. That led to meetings with city staff, public safety officials and dog advocates, and the draft ordinance that city leaders will take up on Monday.
Bob Edwards, president of Sonoma Valley Dog Owners and Guardians, said Thursday that the group supports the proposed changes, which he said would provide due process for owners whose dogs are deemed a threat.
“The current ordinance doesn’t even provide for a hearing,” he said. “Whoever decides the dog is vicious is the decider.”
Owners of potentially dangerous or vicious dogs would have to have liability insurance and show proof they can pay damages up to $50,000.
There are a number of other proposed ordinance changes that would affect all pet owners in Sonoma. They include allowing leashed dogs in city parks, except at the downtown plaza, and requiring pet owners to pick up after their animals.
Dog owners whose pets bark or howl could get cited if the noise interferes “with the reasonable use and enjoyment of private residential property.” The current ordinance states barking is a nuisance if “heard more than 100 feet away.”
Edwards said the proposed regulations are modeled after the city of Healdsburg’s. “They’re not everything that a dog lover would want, but they’re a great improvement over what we have now,” he said.
The City Council on Monday also will consider whether to build a new one-acre dog park on Sonoma’s southwest side.
The West MacArthur Street and Fifth Street West project would face some hurdles, including resistance from some neighbors and the fact there is a drainage swale running through the site.
Dog owners in Sonoma long have complained that the city of 10,000 lacks enough open space for their canine companions to run free.
The city currently allows leashed dogs on four miles of bike paths that traverse the town, as well as off-leash dogs in a dog park on First Street West adjacent to the Police Department.
You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @deadlinederek.