Weber County mulls fines for dog owners who violate animal leash laws
OGDEN — As is, owners of dogs involved in attacks in Weber County can get a citation, but they typically don’t face much punishment beyond that.
Now, in a bid to prevent such incidents, county commissioners have taken the first step toward beefing up the penalties transgressors of the county’s leash law can face, adding fines of up to $250 to the punishment.
“This will hopefully deter and make the community and citizens of Weber County be more responsible in the handling of their animals,” said Chad Averett, director of Weber County Animal Services.
Averett said his office typically responds to reports of animal bites, whether on people or other animals, two to three times a week. In an Oct. 3 incident in Roy, two dogs attacked a 12-year-old girl, who suffered bites to her legs, and a man who was trying to help her, who suffered bites to a hand. The county animal services office determined the animals would be euthanized and the dog owners will potentially face charges of having dogs at large and not licensing the animals.
Even so, the county ordinance applicable in such instances, Section 6-4-5, the Restraining Animals and Leash Law, spells out limited sanctions when dogs attack, as described by Averett.
“This has always been a class B misdemeanor, just with no monetary fine,” he said. “So, if an owner allowed their animal to be at large and that animal bites a person or animal under the current ordinance of 6-4-5, we would only cite for their animal being at large/off leash.”
County commissioners approved the first reading of the proposed change on Tuesday and Averett said the update tentatively faces final consideration on Nov. 2.
Weber County Commissioner Gage Froerer, involved in efforts to come up with the proposed changes, said even if the county’s leash law spells out scant punishment, owners of dogs involved in serious attacks could face punishment under other county laws. Moreover, they could potentially face civil suits.
Underscoring the relative frequency of dog bites, he said they are a leading cause for payouts from insurance companies. “The frequency of dog bites from an insurance perspective is pretty high,” he said.
Per the proposed changes, owners of dogs that attack, chase or threaten people or other animals could face citations and fines of $200. Owners of dogs involved in attacks that cause injury could face citations and fines of $250.