By Gregg Jones
Union Missourian Editor
Aldermen agreed that the city would not repeal the decisions of a safety committee that declared a Union family’s dog as “dangerous.”
The safety committee declared that a 6- to 7-month-old dog, named Cooper, was a dangerous animal after it bit the arm and scratched the face of a neighbor boy in August.
The boy had been playing with the son of Dawn Jett at a Jefferson Street home. The boy was bitten in the garage of the home.
“I told the little boy not come into our home,” said Jett. “The little boy was in our living space. All he (the dog) was doing was protecting my son.”
Karen Siesse, of Labadie, who is a dog advocate and friend of the Jett family, spoke in favor of the dog.
“I don’t think this was a case of him being unpredictable,” she said.
Mayor Mike Livengood said the Union board should follow the recommendation of the safety committee, who closely reviewed the incident and met with family members.
“They said this dog is a dangerous animal,” he said. “I don’t know why you think we should overturn the decision of the committee made up of people more professional than me.”
The safety committee is comprised of veterinarians Dr. Chris Landrum and Dr. Ava Frick, and Union Police Chief Norman Brune.
Jett said the dog has been working with trainers, and that it is now more comfortable around people. The animal is in the Kansas City area at a new home.
She explained there is a dog bite scale that rates the severity of a bite from one to six. The “Dunbar Scale” grades a bite as one if it does not break the skin, up to a six if the victim is killed.
Jett added that the bites on the Union child made by her dog would be a grade of two or three, which is less severe than puncture wounds that are half as deep as the dog’s canine teeth.
City Administrator Russell Rost said the city does not use that scale as a gauge to determine if an animal is dangerous.
“If a dog bites and breaks the skin, it can go up before the board,” said Rost.
The dog is a mixed breed, according to the owners.
“I don’t care if it is a cocker spaniel or a Chihuahua,” said Livengood. “The ordinance is not breed specific.”
Rost added that the city does not have a “bully dog” law, but insurance companies will not protect the family again once it already has bitten somebody.
“Nobody wants to lose a family pet,” added Alderman Bob Schmuke, “but I don’t think this board will retract what the safety committee has decided.”
Brune added that the safety committee was provided with all of the information needed to make an informed decison.
“They were 100 percent certain this dog should be deemed a dangerous animal,” Brune said.
According to the city ordinance, the owners can keep the pet, but they must follow specific guidelines, including keeping the animal behind doors — not screens — while it is inside.
The family also could build an enclosure that is 5 feet by 10 feet wide and has a concrete foundation.
There must be signs posted near each entrance to the property stating that there is a dangerous animal on the premises.
If the the dog is taken outside the property, it must be muzzled and walked on a leash no longer than four feet long.
The family also must carry the proper insurance on the animal.