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City Council Considers Vicious Animal Appeal

October 26, 2017
by Anna Veltri , Emmetsburg News

The Emmetsburg City Council met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Oct. 23 at the City Council Chambers.

The first item under new business was to consider a vicious animal appeal by Alex Fjetland and Cody Henry. On Sept. 26, 2017 the Palo Alto County Communication Center received a call regarding a dog bite incident. At this time, Donna Steffen of Emmetsburg was out walking on the sidewalk of 2400 block of 14th Street when she was attacked and bitten by a dog that belongs to Fjetland and Henry.

Steffen stated that most days she saw the dog chained up underneath a tree, but on this particular day, Rusty had gotten loose. Donna was suddenly and bitten on the lower left leg and knocked to the ground.

The attack was determined to be unprovoked. Steffen was taken to the hospital where her injuries were treated. The dog was determined to be current on all of his vaccines, but it was quarantined for 14 days.

In the Emmetsburg City Ordinances, a dangerous animal is "any animal which is not naturally tame or gentle or which is of a wild nature or disposition, or which is capable of killing, inflicting serious injury upon human beings and having known tendencies, individually or as a species, to do so."

A vicious animal is "any animal that has bitten or clawed a person or persons and the attack was unprovoked."

Police Chief Eric Hanson's orders were to have the dog removed within three days of the end of the quarantine period; during that time the owners were able to file a vicious animal appeal to the City Clerk. Alex Fjetland filed the appeal on Oct. 6.

Fjetland appeared before the Emmetsburg City Council on Monday night to determine whether or not "Rusty" would be allowed to stay within city limits.

"Well I have a little bit of experience with one of my boys when they were young, and a dog. He got bit in the face, and everything was forgotten. A couple months later, the dog did it again to someone else, not on the face. They don't seem to change if they're on their own, I guess, or running loose," Councilman Mike Hermansen began. "It doesn't look like a dangerous breed at all. It might just have a bad attitude, I don't know, but in my opinion, it's not worth the risk of it happening to someone else. I know everyone loves their dog; we love our dog- they're part of the family. Unfortunately sometimes this happens and we just have to do what's right- find the dog a home or less opportunity for something like that to happen."

The Council members were each provided with a packet that contained the police report as well as images of the injuries sustained by Donna Steffen.

"From what my understanding is, it [the attack] was unprovoked; it was an attack. And if that's the habit of a given animal then they'll continue to do it," Hermansen continued. "I support the police department and their recommendation. I love animals, but I also love our citizens and their right to be safe walking down the street."

"He's a red heeler mix. We adopted him from People For Pets about three years ago. Never had any issues with him. I have a two year old and an eight month old crawling on him, pulling his tail [] he's been out; he's gotten loose a couple of times and never hurt anyone. I don't know if the circumstance was when [] I couldn't contain him; he was chasing after an animal in the neighbors and went straight to the bushes. So I don't know if he was provoked by that. I mean they have a lot of items in their yard," Fjetland explained. "And I don't know why he would do it; I have him signed up for a six week obedience class and we're also working on putting up a fence. It's taking a little bit longer than we planned but just doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again. He's never been aggressive to other people or kids or us."

Fjetland explained that they have had Rusty for three years and never had any problems with aggression. She talked about how they've had workers in and out of the house without any problems.

"For this behavior to happen, it was unusual; I was shocked," Alex said.

"I was just walking by; I walk that road everyday. I walk by their house. And he was always tied up and never, you know, bothered me he was always tied up. And that day he wasn't tied up, and I didn't say nothing to it or anything and I just kept walking and all of the sudden he got me by the back of the leg and knocked me down. And I screamed and they were right out there to help me.," Steffen explained of the attack.

"Unfortunately, we as a city need to address the ordinances that we have in place, and ultimately the problem lies with the owner because the owner- it is the owner's responsibility," Mayor Myrna Heddinger spoke. "The dog is either to be chained or in the house or on a leash. And if it doesn't happen- to attack somebody from behind is- I don't know- I think it's frightening, and I'm sure it has been very frightening for Donna also."

A motion by Brian Malm was made to uphold the Chief's recommendation of relocating the dog outside of Emmetsburg City Limits. Ryan Berkland seconded the motion. The vote passed unanimously.

"I'm sorry Alex, it just happens, and I love animals too," Heddinger said.

Rusty has to be removed from Emmetsburg by order of the Police Chief and the City Council.



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