City officials promise changes to 'dangerous dog' policy after N -

City officials promise changes to 'dangerous dog' policy after News 4 investigation

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Dangerous dog. Credit: KMOV Dangerous dog. Credit: KMOV
ST. LOUIS, Mo. ( -

They’re known as man's best friend and most are sweet and loving, but whether because of bad training or some type of trauma, a very small percentage of dogs become dangerous.

So what exactly happens after a dog bites someone or kills another pet? It depends on where you live.

“I was afraid that I was going to die,” said Donna Niehouse.

Niehouse had just stepped out back of her south St. Louis home in October. 

“I was close to the fence and I was bending down to pick up the pot and the next thing I knew, the dog had gotten me,” she said.

Unprovoked, her neighbor's dog ripped open her throat. 

"It happened really fast and she hit me really hard," she said.  

The physical damage is permanent.

“My smile is different than it was, so there is probably nerve damage there,” Niehouse said.

Niehouse said the psychological impact has also been significant. She feels kept in the dark.

"I am pretty disappointed in animal control and the city," Donna said.  

The dog was taken away after the bite, but Niehouse didn't know until told by News 4 that the dog that bit her had been returned to its owner under a city law that could allow it to come right back to the house next door.  

“I wouldn't stay, I wouldn't live next to that dog. I don't think that's right. The dog is really dangerous," she said.

The dog that bit Niehouse  has been deemed dangerous, a legal designation created under a St. Louis city ordinance.

Animal advocates say ordinances like the city’s are more progressive than breed-specific bans. Instead, they deal with individual dogs who have shown aggressive of vicious behavior. 

News 4 looked at the numbers. In the last three years in the city, there have been more than 2,700 attacks and bites. Of those, city officials say 28 dogs made the "dangerous" list.

City officials said 16 have been euthanized because their owners didn't' get in compliance with the provisions of the law. That’s what happened to the dog in Alcienne De Joie's North City neighborhood after she said a dog bit six people, including her 11-year-old nephew.

“If you can't even make it from the street to your home, there's a problem,” she said.

Other dogs are allowed to return to their owners after they've bitten or even killed.

“I still cry over it, he was a good dog,” said Rita McCroy, whose beloved pet Nugget was killed by her neighbor's dog in September, right in front of her, in her own backyard.

“There wasn't nothing he could do. He came under the fence and started shaking him like a little rag doll,” McCroy said.

Under the law, the dog's owners are supposed to abide by strict conditions to get their dangerous dog back. They've got to spay or neuter the animal, get it microchipped, maintain a certain amount of insurance or bonding, keep the dog in a four-sided enclosure band and post signs on their property saying "dangerous dog."

While McCroy said her neighbors have done some of that, she said they're not doing it all, deathly afraid now for her new dog and for others.

“I can't let my dog or my great-grandchild come back here and play until they fix this fence,” said McCroy.

In fact, News 4 went to several of the addresses where dangerous dogs were said to live and found some dog owners who appeared to be in compliance and some that were not.

“I appreciate you, I really do,” said Interim Director of Health, Melba Moore.

News 4 sat down with Moore, the head of Animal Control.

“Based on this inquiry from you I was able to go back and identify two situations that had been misstepped,” Moore said.  

She said it seems at least one of the dangerous dogs on the list is now on the loose and they're working to find it. Moore said after News 4 inquiries, she realized that compliance checks weren't being done as they should have been.

A member of the animal control staff, she said, is no longer employed there.

“You can rest assured, this will not happen again,” said Moore.

In order to adequately handle animal control, she said she could use more resources. For example, the space in the shelter now can only handle 10 dangerous dogs at a time, meaning even after a bite or attack, some dogs stay with their owners because the shelter's too full.

While the law itself, she said, is a good start she also said it could be re-written to ensure the most dangerous of dogs are dealt with.

“We need to put more in there, the frequency of what we are doing, the requirements of what's required,” said Moore.

She said she feels for residents whose pets have been killed and can't imagine the pain for the humans who are bitten.

“The bottom line is we are here to protect the public's health and I want you and everyone to know you’re going to be safe,” Moore said.

Niehouse said at the very least she thinks the city should be more considerate of victims of dog attacks. Even now, she feels strongly that the dog that bit her should have been put down.

“I think it's ridiculous to put a dog’s life over a human’s life,” Niehouse said.

St. Louis County has laws about dangerous dogs, but after being contacted by News 4, the new Animal Control Director admits they need some changes on how they track bites and attacks

Bottomline, every person who owns a pet is responsible for the animal's safety and the safety of other people.

If you think a dog near you may potentially do some harm, local officials ask that you report it. You can find more information, here.

Check with your local municipality to see if there are dangerous dog ordinances where you live. 

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