Humane Society of Utah continues the battle to save Dexter from death sentence

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MURRAY, UTAH (Sept. 7, 2017) -- Santaquin City Council rejects proposed ordinance changes to animal control code


The Humane Society of Utah joined dog owner, Lindsay Bray and other Santaquin residents to support proposed changes to amend the city’s animal control ordinance during the Santaquin City Council meeting Thursday, Sept. 6, 2017, at the City Council Chambers located at 45 West 100 South in Santaquin, Utah. Bray and her family hoped changes to the ordinance would alter the death sentence given to their dog, Dexter for allegedly scratching a young girl. After hearing a proposal drafted by the Humane Society of Utah and a second proposal drafted by Santaquin City, Councilmember Amanda Jeffs moved to reject both options and keep the existing animal code.


Dexter, a 5-year-old Australian Shepherd, escaped his yard in October 2016 and allegedly bit a young girl. According to a police report, the dog did not "break any skin," but Santaquin's ordinance defines a vicious dog as "a dog that has bitten, clawed, attacked, chased, harassed, pursued or worried a person without provocation."


“We were very disappointed that the City Council chose not to work with us to make their ordinance constitutional and better for the citizens of Santaquin and their animals,” said Craig S. Cook, legal counsel for the Humane Society of Utah who is representing the Bray family pro bono. “Instead, they abruptly decided in the middle of the discussion to keep the present ordinance with all its flaws. Now, we are going to have to litigate this through the court system. People who have animals have certain rights, and the city cannot arbitrarily euthanize animals for alleged violations.”


Cook will challenge the ordinance and ask a judge to overrule it before proceeding to a court of appeals.


“I feel like we got shut down pretty quickly,” said Lindsay Bray in response to the vote. “There was no discussion even though they had options to work with. I’ve had several friends in similar situations who have told me their child was bitten by a dog and they didn’t call police because they knew the dog would automatically be put down, and they didn’t want that to happen. One friend had to give her child antibiotics she had at her house because she didn’t want to report a bite.”


The Humane Society of Utah’s proposed amendments were based on other animal control ordinance language from cities similar in size to Santaquin City. The changes included definitions for a “dangerous dog,” a “vicious dog,” an “attack” and “serious bodily injury.” The ordinance also allowed better protection for the city and working dogs.


A second proposal, written by Santaquin City, offered an alternative option for the Council to consider which focused exclusively on the sentencing portion of the code. For a first offense, a dog in Dexter’s situation could be sentenced to: a. The humane destruction of the animal within five (5) calendar days of said conviction; b. The permanent removal of the dog from Santaquin City; Injection of an identification microchip using standard veterinary procedures and practices, identification number, and the identification of the person performing the procedure; and filed notice with the entity having jurisdiction over the new location of the identification and relocation of the dog and the finding of a “vicious dog” within five (5) calendar days; or c. Enhanced supervision requirements for the animal when it is attended or not attended indoors or outdoors.


“I think it’s good that they [HSU] cleaned up some of the definitions since that’s one of the complaints I’ve heard is that our definitions were maybe vague,” said Councilmember Nicholas Miller. “I like the options, maybe on the second offense you could narrow it down.”


Both proposed ordinances were read by Santaquin City Manager Benjamin Reeves, who suggested that the city’s legal counsel go through each paragraph and discuss concerns he had regarding existing city policies, procedures and requirements made of the court. When Reeves asked the Council if they had questions or concerns, Councilmember Jeffs motioned to vote to keep the animal control ordinance the same, which was seconded by Councilmember Keith Broadhead. The vote passed three to two, supported by Councilmember Broadhead, Jeffs, Stevenson and opposed by Hathaway and Miller.