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Editorial: Beefing up dangerous dog law a good move for public

Dangerous dogs, like dangerous criminals, shouldn’t be running loose on Albuquerque’s streets.

So, Mayor Richard Berry wants the city’s dangerous dog law to have more teeth. He is proposing legislation that would require animal control officers to seek court orders to immediately seize dogs that have killed or seriously harmed animals or people.

Two deadly dog-on-dog attacks and recent revelations that the city’s former Animal Welfare Department’s director was allowing dangerous dogs to be adopted out or placed with rescue groups without their knowledge of the animals’ history have prompted widespread community concern.

“I hear a lot from our community, even at the grocery store and the neighborhoods I talk to, people get really worried when one of the neighbors has a dangerous dog,” Berry told the Journal.

Under current law, it is not illegal to own a dangerous dog, but it must be kept on a leash while off the owner’s property, and its owners must have a minimum $100,000 in liability insurance and permit the city to inspect their property.

Earlier this year, two small dogs being walked on leash by their owners in separate parts of the city were mauled to death in unprovoked attacks by bigger dogs that were off leash. Despite a hearing officer finding that the attacking dogs were dangerous, they have been allowed to remain at their homes and the city hasn’t tried to seize them. That would change under Berry’s proposal – if the council approves it.

Seized dogs would become city property until a hearing officer decides that dog’s fate – to be returned to the owner with restrictions, to be turned over to rescue groups for rehabilitation, or to be euthanized.

The city would also offer a 311 app for reporting a dangerous dog, sending an alert to Animal Welfare officers. That should offer some comfort to those who fear that reporting a dog will bring retaliation.

While there was some talk of raising the $100,000 liability insurance requirement, it was rejected as a hardship for some dog owners. But public safety and personal responsibility should overrule a person’s desire to own a dog that has been deemed a danger to other animals or people.

Mayor Berry deserves credit for not ignoring this problem. Overall, this proposal has merit and the council should endorse it, setting some limits that give community members more peace of mind when they head out the door to take their beloved pet for a walk.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.