At Monday’s Hiawatha City Commission meeting, several concerned community members took advantage of the newly reinstated Public Comments portion of the agenda to address concerns over the city’s animal control ordinances.
Beth Spiker spoke first, reading a letter to the commission detailing her experience with a pit bull that had attacked her dog in her yard. Spicer stated that she had problems with the response from the Hiawatha Police Department, and waited 10 days to be notified that the dog had been removed from the city. She also stated that she contacted the PD on 14 separate occasions in trying to resolve her concerns.
Elaine Moore was present to discuss the same dog, claiming the animal attempted to attack her son in her own yard before he was intercepted by her own dog. Both citizens said the owner of the dog had been made aware that it was getting out of the fenced in area in which it was kept. Moore said that she had called dispatch to request an officer to be sent, but never heard back and no officer ever showed up.
City Attorney Andy Delaney spoke in regards to Spiker’s claim, stating that there is a court case pending related to the animal attack, but also sharing that he did not believe the timeline given was entirely accurate. Delaney also noted that the dog has been removed from the city and would not be allowed back.
Police Chief John Defore discussed the calls to dispatch, stating that no calls or messages from Moore had been received by the HPD, according to the department call logs. Defore asked which department the citizen called, and determined that the calls had been placed to the county dispatch, rather than directly to the PD. Defore said that he could not determine what happened with the call at that juncture as county dispatch is not under his purview.
Jennifer Garcia was next to speak to the commission, discussing calls she had made to the PD regarding dogs left outside without adequate shelter during the winter and crated in the summer. Chief Defore pointed out that the police could not seize someone’s animal unless the situation fell within very strict guidelines set by the state. He said that pictures are taken and analyzed by local veterinarians for every call.
Garcia cited Atchison’s tethering laws as an example of guidelines that would give officers more discretion in determining the proper outcome in these situations.
City officials said they would look into the concerns of the residents.