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Discussion centers on dangerous animals in Willmar's city limits

WILLMAR — A proposed ordinance would establish a process and procedure necessary to declare an animal as potentially dangerous or as a dangerous animal and would define the city’s animal control authority as the Willmar Police Department.

Police Chief David Wyffels explained the need for the ordinance to the City Council’s Public Works/Safety Committee and the committee voted Tuesday evening to recommend the council introduce and set a date for a hearing on the ordinance. The council meets again Monday.

Wyffels said the department has cited a citizen whose dog has bitten three people and killed a small dog in Willmar during nearly the past 12 months.

According to Wyffels, there are no mechanisms in the current animal ordinance to establish the process and procedure necessary to declare an animal as potentially dangerous or as a dangerous animal and the ordinance does not define the animal control authority.

Wyffels said these deficiencies prevent the Police Department, the city prosecutor and district court from taking the action necessary to protect the public from animals that would otherwise be deemed to be potentially dangerous or dangerous under state law.

City Prosecutor Tom Anderson said the proposed ordinance will provide due process that will allow an animal owner cited by the Police Department to present evidence at a hearing and challenge the classification that their animal is dangerous.

If the City Council ultimately rules that the animal is dangerous, the Police Department can confiscate the animal for destruction.

Under the current ordinance, the only solution is to fine the owner but the city is not authorized to confiscate the animal.

The ordinance defines the animal control authority, which means the municipal agency that is responsible for animal control operations in the city.

The ordinance defines a dangerous animal as an animal that has killed a domestic animal without provocation while off the owner’s property; has bitten one or more persons on two or more occasions; and caused substantial bodily harm to any person on public or private property.

In other business, the committee voted to recommend the council approve a construction and maintenance agreement with the BNSF Railway for the new Willmar Avenue Southwest crossing.

The council previously approved a $15,000 easement payment to BNSF that will allow the crossing to be built. In addition, BNSF requires a $2,000 payment for administrative costs, said Bruce Peterson, planning and development director and acting public works director.

Peterson said the agreement allows the city to build up to the crossing; BNSF will build the crossing at the tracks. Peterson said the railroad will build the crossing this year but not the signals.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150