Escanaba revamps dog ordinance

ESCANABA — It’s official, Fido has to be on a leash in Escanaba.

Currently, Escanaba’s city ordinance requires dogs be “kept under control by the owner or restraint of a leash while off of the property of the animal’s owner.” While the city council has previously interpreted this to mean owners could control their dogs without leashes when not on the owner’s property, a legal opinion from Delta County Prosecuting Attorney Brett Gardner splits the ordinance into two parts: under control on the owners property and on a leash elsewhere.

“Our police officers have more important things to do — keeping our children safe, keeping drugs out of the community — than chasing dogs around. Especially in the case of an animal just being a nuisance and not a danger,” said City Manager Patrick Jordan, noting officers have been directed to treat loose dogs that are simply a nuisance as secondary to other police business.

There are times when loose dogs have posed a danger to the public and to other dogs in the city. In those cases, the dogs will be a higher priority for law enforcement.

“Safety is an issue more in the middle of town with dogs just running off leash. Sometimes vicious dogs are running loose. There have been many incidents of small dogs being badly injured by vicious loose dogs and our officers will continue to enforce the law regarding these dogs,” said Jordan.

Gardner drafted language for the city that would be more clear as to when leashes are required. The language will be presented as part of a proposed ordinance with a first reading at the council’s Aug. 1 meeting.

Under Gardner’s proposal, no person would be able to allow an animal to run loose or be unconfined in the city. If an animal is on the owner’s property, the animal would be considered confined.

No matter where the animal was, it would need to be under the control of the owner. When not on the owner’s property, it would need to be restrained by a leash and no unrestrained, unleashed, or uncontrolled animals would be permitted in any park.

Gardner’s language also includes a prohibition on animals being allowed to run on any beach, except animals completely controlled by a person during the months of October through March, or as permitted by park rules made known by the city. The October through March window would allow for animals running during the times of the year when fewer people are on the beach.

“Dogs off-leash at Ludington Park don’t necessarily present a safety issue, but more of a nuisance issue when residents or visitors are trying to enjoy time down at the park or on the beach and they’re bothered by loose dogs,” said Jordan.

Escanaba Public Safety officers do have some discretion on how to handle loose dogs depending on the circumstances, but the department may have special ticket books made up so the department can track who has been warned as the rules begin to be enforced. After someone has been warned once, they could receive a ticket for having a loose dog a second time.

“What we don’t want are say someone pulls into the marina on their boat. They’ve had a dog cooped up on there. They take the dog to Ludington Park and throw a Frisbee to it or a ball into the water and the dog’s off the leash and they get a ticket, ‘Here, welcome to Escanaba. Here’s your ticket.’ We don’t want that,” said Jordan.

In other business the council

– approved amending a service contract with the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians to allow for five additional dwellings on a housing development owned by the tribe. The city provides services for the development in exchange for $150 per dwelling annually.

– approved the closure of Ludington Street for the annual Downtown Sidewalk Days event, which will be held July 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

– approved allowing Kobas Electric Co. to install outlets and over-the-floor raceways for electric and data cables in the city council chambers. The cost for the project is $3,141.

– rescheduled the July 18 meeting for July 16 to accommodate one council member and the city manager being out of town. Jordan’s review was previously set for the July 18 meeting and will be conducted at the July 16 meeting.

– tabled entering into an agreement to retain engineering services from C2AE and Black & Veatch for an upcoming project at the wastewater treatment plant.

COMMENTS