Lansing Developing Vicious Dog Ordinance

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Sometimes man's best friend can be dangerous.

Sheryl Steiner witnessed her neighbor's pit bull break through a fence and kill her family's cat in their own front yard.

"I screamed, just screamed at the top of my lungs to get the dog to drop the cat," Steiner said. "At that point, I'm pretty sure it was too late. It's like he had bit the cat in half."

The same thing happened to her neighbor on W. Berry Street, and Steiner's own dog was injured in another incident. Now concrete blocks line their fence, and she doesn't go outside without a shovel.

"We live in fear now," Steiner said. "We have good fences to protect ourselves, yet we have shovels around the yard to protect ourselves when we come out, because we don't know."

Part of the answer might be Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero's proposed vicious dog ordinance. It's in its preliminary stages, but so far, a survey of Lansing residents has come back positive.

"We've had plenty of injuries, we've had plenty of attacks. I don't want to wait until there's a death," Mayor Bernero said. "People shouldn't have to live that way."

Lansing Police said they're on board. Officers had to shoot and kill a dog in July after it charged them.

"The officer had to make a decision, a split second decision and terminated the dog, and actually the dog wasn't terminated," Public Information Officer Robert Merritt said. "It got back up, and went after another officer."

The ordinance could address fencing and insurance requirements, as well as a dog's history or propensity for viciousness. It hasn't been decided whether it will be breed specific.

"It's not the animal's fault, it's the way it was trained," Mayor Bernero said.

So, the ordinance is for owners to own up.

"All dogs, I believe, can be vicious, and it's up to the dog owner to be responsible and not allow that situation," Steiner said.

Bernero hopes city council and the city attorney can move quickly to have an ordinance in place by next summer. There will be public hearings, and the mayor wants to consult with veterinarians, Ingham County Animal Control, and other communities that already have ordinances in place.

Jackson passed a dangerous dog ordinance a little more than year ago. Jackson County Animal Control said they've seen a slight decrease in attacks, but they still happen from time to time.

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