Davenport resident Chris Ullrich will walk to her front door, reach out to her mailbox and grab her mail today.
That may not sound like a big deal, but Ullrich, who lives on North Linwood Avenue, is relieved. She and her neighbors had been without home delivery since a dog bit a mail carrier in the 2000 block of Linwood on May 29. The dog was not fenced in or leashed.
Five days after the bite, Postmaster Anthony Harris notified residents that mail would no longer be delivered.
Some of her neighbors are still without home delivery, as only part of the neighborhood started receiving mail again a few weeks back, Ullrich said. At first, residents were told to pick up their mail at the Main Post Office, 933 W. 2nd St. Then a neighborhood delivery collection box was installed.
Ullrich was among a group of Davenport residents who petitioned the Davenport City Council to remove the dog that bit the carrier. The city never responded to the petition, she said.
The dog was taken to a farm in another state, said Pam Arndt, executive director for the Humane Society of Scott County, which operates animal control for Davenport, Bettendorf and most of the other cities and unincorporated areas in Scott County.
“The only (party) that lost is the neighbors,” Ullrich said.
The animal is one of dozens in the Quad-Cities that regularly require time, consideration and review by city representatives and animal-control officers. When one of those dogs bites, it sets off a series of events, starting with an investigation.
Deemed dangerous or vicious
Municipalities have similar dog-bite guidelines when it comes to getting rid of a dangerous or vicious dog.
People should remember, “Dogs are different when they’re loose,” said Nicole Ashby, animal control officer for Muscatine Police Department.
Dogs can be deemed dangerous or vicious after just one bite under certain circumstances, she said. After Ashby investigates a report of a dog bite, the police chief reviews the incident.
“If he believes the dog is vicious, he will send a letter by certified mail to the owner. Then the owner has 72 hours to make an appeal to city hall.”
An appeal goes to city council, and Ashby and the chief appear, along with witnesses and the owner. The council decides if the dog should be removed from the city limits or euthanized, or remain at the home under certain qualifications, such as being muzzled when it is outdoors or contained in a fence.
Three dogs in Muscatine were deemed dangerous or vicious last year, Ashby said. One had bitten three different people, including a courier and a child playing in the area. Another, whose owner had two other dogs, was re-homed.
When Ashby went to a residence to investigate the canine, “It charged me, too,” she said. “I used a stern voice and it backed off.”
Dog bites, she said, are a huge part of public safety.
Animal control officers, cities, work together
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In Davenport, an animal-control officer can declare a dog dangerous or vicious.
"We only 'deem' in Davenport," said Arndt, from the Scott County Humane Society. "The rest, if there's an issue, they handle in-house."
According to the city ordinance, a "vicious" dog, unprovoked, bites or attacks a person causing bodily injury or severely injures or kills another domestic animal, or has been found to be a dangerous dog on two or more occasions, Arndt said.
“Even if the dog bit once, if it’s a serious injury per our code, the dog can be deemed then.” For example, if a dog mauled a child, then the animal control officer can write a letter deeming it dangerous or vicious. Letters are either hand-delivered or sent by certified mail.
The owner has 14 days to appeal. “They have to go to city legal to appeal it,” Arndt said. “If they don’t, they have 10 days to comply with stipulations in the letter.
Owners of dogs deemed dangerous or vicious must have insurance that addresses the animal, and also need a “dangerous” city license (tag) for the dog: $150 for dangerous, $350 for vicious.
A dangerous animal might be required to wear a muzzle when it is outdoors or be kept on a run-line or within a fence or kennel.
If an owner doesn’t appeal or comply, a search warrant can be issued for the animal, which then will be euthanized.
Sometimes, Arndt said, owners euthanize dogs themselves.
About half the owners appeal such letters, said Arndt, who said 26 dogs in Davenport have been deemed dangerous or vicious from January through the end of July.
To appeal, the owner must talk with city legal counsel. Both parties and witnesses may testify before a hearing officer, which may be an attorney or a city representative decides whether the animal is dangerous or vicious.
'Every situation is different'
Bettendorf Police Chief Keith Kimball says each situation is addressed individually in that city.
“It depends on how much we may get involved at the police level,” he said. “Every situation is different. What actually happened? What caused it? What can be done to prevent it in the future? Was there a provocation? If a dog is provoked and defending itself by a human being or another animal.”
The dog’s whereabouts — in its own yard or elsewhere — will be taken into consideration, too.
“A lot of times this comes down to responsibility of the owner,” he said. The severity of the bite comes into play, and so do repeated incidents.
If an owner decided to appeal, a hearing would be set up with a city administrator to listen to both sides of the situation. Then the city administrator would decide whether the letter stands.
If police and animal control have concerns about the dog, but they don’t rise to its being deemed dangerous, “Sometimes specific conditions (such as a muzzle, leash or a fence) are put on the dog and the dog owner trying to prevent a further event from happening,” Kimball said.