Owners must comply with dangerous dog laws

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Two Austin dog owners will have to meet a collection of strict requirements to keep their pet dogs following dangerous dog declarations at an Austin City Council meeting Tuesday night.

The council heard two related public hearings about dangerous dog appeals following a dog fight that left one owner injured. Dog owners Jessica Hnatyszyn and Laura Marsolek were with their dogs in Lansing Township on Aug. 5 when the two animals began to fight.

Hnatyszyn was trying to separate the two animals when Marsolek’s pit bull bit her in the thigh, then bit her finger. Part of the finger was lost from the injury.

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“I believe both of these dogs should be considered dangerous dogs,” said Captain Dave McKichan.

Officer Ernesto Cantu agreed, saying both dogs have behaved aggressively while being held by the city.

Hnatyszyn’s dog was mentioned in three earlier police reports, which included complaints that the dog had run loose and had bitten another dog on the neck. Cantu said he once had to use tear gas and a tranquilizer gun to subdue the dog.

But while her dog appears in previous reports, Hnatyszyn said her pet had always behaved well, and blamed herself for the injury.

“I’ve never seen him attack any dog,” she said. “I wouldn’t have gotten bit if I didn’t get in the middle of it.” She added the other dog did not intend to hurt her, and that it was an accident.

Marsolek said she has also found her dog not to be violent, and said she has no worries about it around her 1-year-old son.

“It was definitely not an intentional bite,” she said.

Council Member Steve King argued in favor of making the declaration stronger, possibly to include putting the dogs down.

“I’m an animal lover myself, but I care more about the human race at this point,” he said. “They’re obviously a public safety issue and a threat.”

The recent trend with dangerous dog cases concerned him, he added.

“There are a number of threats in the city of Austin,” King said. “Dangerous dogs really doesn’t need to be one of them.”

While the dogs were not ordered to be euthanized as were other recent cases of dangerous dogs, both owners will need to follow a set of seven requirements that include keeping the dog muzzled and leashed outside of the owner’s home, putting a warning sign in clear view outside the property and having liability insurance of at least $300,000.

Hnatyszyn and Marsolek have until the beginning of October to comply.

Other business

Between the council meeting and the work session that followed, the council also:

—authorized the combining of two wastewater treatment plant positions into one, and allow a replacement of the operations supervisor.

—accepted a bid for asbestos abatement at 312 Seventh Ave. SE.

—discussed the possibility of making future council meeting paper-free, and using digital readers instead.

—approved an assessment for the unpaid note balance of G&R Truck Wash.

—amended a city ordinance to include wording on shade tree pests, such as the emerald ash borer.

—granted the Planning and Zoning Department the power to contract for the removal of junk and illegally stored vehicles at five Austin locations: 1003 Third Ave. NE, 107 Eighth St. NW, 905 First Ave. NW, 103 1/2 12th St. NE and 806 Fifth Ave. NE.