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String of dog attacks prompts concern

City to address fines for failure to secure animals in coming animal ordinance update

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LOOSE DOGS? — Kokomo resident Chris Wendt says he and his wife were attacked by a loose pitbull recently in his neighborhood near Monroe Street, marking the third such incident in the last two months. 

A Kokomo resident is speaking out after he said he, his wife, and his dog were attacked by loose dogs three times in two months.

Chris Wendt said the first attack happened in early March with the latest occurring last week while he was taking twice-daily walks in the area of West Monroe Street. During each incident, he said a loose pit bull either attacked him, his wife, or one of his two smaller dogs, accruing veterinarian bills and damages in the process.

The latest incident in particular, Wendt said, particularly shook him and his wife. His dog was bitten by what he called a loose pit bull, breaking the skin before his wife managed to break the two animals apart but not before getting scratched in the process.

The Wendts accrued over $150 in veterinarian costs from the incident, which was charged for various tests and antibiotics for the dog, Wendt said.

Two more attacks occurred before that one, and the quick succession of the incidents prompted Wendt to buy a taser for protection during his walks, though it has not yet been used, he said.

The most recent attack was captured on a security video, and Wendt said he wasn’t alone in having issues with loose dogs in his neighborhood near Monroe Street.

“After three times of it happening, you just feel like, does anybody really care about this?” Wendt said. “And what do we do … because once we started talking about this in this video, we just heard all kinds of stories, everybody’s neighborhoods. They're fed up with it. It keeps happening.”

Wendt said, in his opinion, the attacks were caused by dogs not being properly kept in enclosed areas.

“If the city’s got inspectors out there, go look at the fences,” Wendt said. “If the dog has been a problem before, make the fence an issue. Can you be fined for that? ... It just seems like that’s what’s happening. The dogs are getting out of their fences, and their owners don’t even know that they’re even gone.”

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Wendt said he filed reports for two of the incidents with the Kokomo Police Department and the Kokomo Humane Society.

There are two animal control officers for the humane society, said Executive Director Karen Wolfe, and they respond to each call for loose animals.

“If someone calls and says there’s a dog running loose, either just running loose or they feel like it’s aggressive or it’s chasing someone, then someone would call here, and we have two animal control officers. We send them out,” Wolfe said. “And they’ll try to catch the dog, or if they know where the dog lives and it’s gone home, they’ll go and talk to the owner at first. And if it continues, they get a citation for dog running at large. And depending on what the situation is, if the dog attacks someone or if it chases someone, the citations are different. There’s a different scenario to each situation.”

Wolfe said that while information like name and address is taken from each caller who reports a situation like a loose animal, that information is not released and kept only for records purposes.

Kokomo’s animal ordinance prohibits any animal to be at-large or a public nuisance. Stricter language is in place for owners of dogs that are considered dangerous, such as requiring clear “beware of dog” signs to be posted, carrying insurance, and remaining properly enclosed unless muzzled and restrained by a leash.

Those who violate the “animal at large” ordinance can be fined up to $1,150 for loose animals in Kokomo. The ordinance also gives authorities the right to kill dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs found at large that cannot be safely captured and impounded.

The city’s animal ordinance last was updated in 2014.

While the ordinance as it stands now has language in place meant to prevent loose dog attacks such as the ones Wendt has experienced, the Kokomo Common Council is working to update the language further to include concerns like containment and fines for the failure to properly secure animals.

Last October, then-Kokomo Common Council President Lynn Rudolph said the council had created a committee to review and update the animal ordinance. The committee, made up of council members, members of Howard County administration, and Greentown and Russiaville town board members, is being spearheaded by now-council President Matt Grecu.