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Sonoma weighs crackdown on vicious dogs


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.

Council members will take up the proposed ordinance at their meeting on Monday.

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 derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.

4 Responses to “Sonoma weighs crackdown on vicious dogs”

  1. Mary Oertel says:

    Sonoma, why are you so pretentious and reactionary for no good reason?
    Come down off your self-perceived high horses and join the rest of us earthlings.
    Is Ms. Saunders getting big bucks from a purebred dog lover who dislikes mongrels and common curs?
    Please. Get real.

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  2. R. B. Fish says:

    Great photograph!!

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  3. Frank says:

    The current ordinance states barking is a nuisance if “heard more than 100 feet away.”
    don’t even bother calling animal control on this one, they will do nothing but send a letter, Our Tax dollars at work
    More Taxes, less service
    vote no on all new taxes, til they get there act together

    Dog owners in Sonoma long have complained that the city of 10,000 lacks enough open space for their canine companions to run free.
    same problem in Santa Rosa, dogs need to run,swim. water parks for the doggies! then you have those jerks tell you about leash laws, and leave ther little blue bag on the side of the trial

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  4. Sonoma Gone Crazy says:

    Mayor Saunders,
    Please go look at the Sonoma County Ordinances. County Ordinances trump your City Ordinances any way. And since the County covers your City for Lost and Stray Dogs, which the County drives over and picks up. This also includes “Dangerous Dogs” Ordinances. I personally see the County Pound truck in the City of Sonoma all the time. Why are you wasting your taxpayer’s money with new Ordinances? Where are you going to jail these dogs once they bite? At the County Shelter correct? You are just duplicating laws that already exist at County level…Oh yeah, you forgot! Look them up on the County Municode…Isn’t anyone at City Hall doing their job? Nah, the citizen’s can do it for you..

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