WAHOO – The Wahoo City Council has declared a dog “potentially dangerous” and its owner “irresponsible” for not controlling the dog.

At the Oct. 24 meeting, the council declared a dog named Lilly Mae owned by Mary Durham to be dangerous because it had been involved in incidents where humans or other dogs had been bitten.

Wahoo Police Chief Bruce Farrell told the council that in April of 2018, Durham’s dog Shamus bit a woman who was walking her dog near 17th and North Linden streets. Three months later, Lilly Mae and another dog owned by Durham named Duke encountered a woman as she was running through Pleskac Park.

On Oct. 5, 2019, Shamus and Lilly Mae pounced on a small dog owned by a neighbor of Durham’s. Sandra Meese said her dog, Tanner, had puncture wounds that were caused when both dogs attacked him. She was not sure which of Durham’s dogs had bit Tanner, she added.

Meese said it cost nearly $200 to treat her dog at the veterinarian, where staples were needed to close the wound. Durham agreed to pay the cost.

Durham’s dog attacked Tanner again not long after the first incident, but Meese said she did not seek medical care for her dog because he was already on antibiotics and pain medicine.

Meese said she also worries that she will be injured by Durham’s dogs.

“My fear also is that they could knock me down,” she said.

Durham said she had Shamus euthanized after the council declared him a dangerous dog. She blamed Shamus, who was older than Lilly Mae, for leading the younger dog astray.

“To me, it’s like kids. The older kid has an idea, the younger one don’t know right from wrong so he goes along with the older one,” she said.

Durham argued that Lilly Mae wasn’t dangerous, and that she was planning to send her and Duke to a trainer.

“I think they’re still trainable,” she said.

Durham asked the council to give Lilly Mae a “clean slate” to show that she isn’t dangerous now that Shamus is gone. City Attorney Jovan Lausterer told the council that they can declare a dog “potentially dangerous” after it has bitten a human but does not cause an injury that requires medical attention, or if it has injured another dog.

To declare a dog “dangerous,” the dog must have bitten a human and caused an injury that required medical attention or killed another animal, Lausterer continued.

Once a dog has been declared “potentially dangerous,” if it strikes again, it can then be declared “dangerous,” Lausterer added.

The council voted to declare Lilly Mae “potentially dangerous.”

The council then considered whether or not Durham was a responsible dog owner. Farrell told the council that Durham has four dogs all together, which is against city codes unless the resident has a kennel license, which Durham does not have. He also said Shamus, Lilly Mae and Duke were not vaccinated or registered with the city when the incident in April 2018 took place. They are registered now, he added, but the fourth dog is not currently licensed.

Farrell said Durham has also been cited for barking dogs earlier this year.

“This is the definition of an irresponsible owner,” said Council Member Stuart Krejci. “I can’t see how you can look at it any differently.”

Krejci and Council Member Carl Warford said it is a matter of public safety to ensure dog owners take care of their pets in a responsible manner.

Durham said she didn’t know what else to do other than have the dogs trained.

“I’ve had dogs all my life,” she said. “I’ve never had any problems until I moved to this town.”

Council Member Mike Lawver said the city warned Durham two years ago she had to take steps to control her dogs. Durham put up a fence and took other steps, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

“But over the last few months, they’re still getting out,” he said.

Durham was emotional as she spoke to the council but had to leave the meeting to go to work before the discussion was finished. The council continued to struggle with a decision, as they noted Durham’s feelings.

“My heart strings are pulled,” said Council Member Karen Boop.

In the end, public safety overruled emotions.

“I hate to do it, but somebody has got to close the discussion and I think it’s time,” said Lawver as he made the motion to declare Durham an irresponsible pet owner.

Lawver noted that the declaration does not mean the dogs must be euthanized.

“We’re not telling her she has to put the dogs down, we’re just telling her she can’t have them in the house with her,” he said.

Boop seconded the motion.

“It’s tough, but it’s something we have to do to protect the people in the community,” she said.

The council voted unanimously to declare Durham an “irresponsible owner” under Section 96-119 of the city code.

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