Mission Hills has changed its animal ordinances to give owners of dogs designated as “potentially dangerous” a way to appeal that decision or even to eventually get off the list.
City Council members voted unanimously Monday to make the changes, which came in response to a resident who questioned the fairness of the existing rules.
The Mission Hills city administrator can declare a dog “potentially dangerous” if it has shown aggression to people or inflicted minor bites on people or other animals. It moves up to being labeled a “dangerous” dog if it establishes a pattern of aggressive incidents or if it actually attacks a person or animal while off its property.
Once a dog is labeled “dangerous” or “potentially dangerous,” owners must either remove the animal from within city limits or follow a list of requirements to stay, such as keeping the dog confined to a fenced-in yard and attaching a muzzle when it’s off its property.
City Administrator Courtney Christensen said there previously was no formal appeal for her decisions, short of asking the city’s crime and safety committee for help or filing suit in Johnson County District Court. Also, dogs put on either list were essentially labeled for life.
Christensen said a dog owner whose animal she declared “potentially dangerous” asked the city to review its ordinance to remove a requirement that such dogs be chained in their yard, which the owner said would only increase their aggression, and give responsible owners a way to expunge the “potentially dangerous” label.
Under the amended ordinance, owners can appeal the “dangerous” or “potentially dangerous” declaration to the Mission Hills Municipal Court within 15 days of Christensen’s declaration.
Even if unsuccessful, owners of “potentially dangerous” dogs can ask the Municipal Court to remove the declaration after two years if animal control officers agree that the owner has followed all of the dangerous dog requirements and the dog hasn’t been involved in another aggressive incident.
In addition to the appeals, however, the city also is adding a number of requirements on “dangerous” and “potentially dangerous” dog owners.
For instance, owners must enroll the dog in behavior modification classes and provide the city with verification they have completed the training, notify neighbors living within 500 feet of their property of the dog’s designation, install warning signs, have an identification microchip implanted in the dog, obtain a city permit each year for $200 and maintain $500,000 in liability insurance.
Christensen said those additional requirements are to protect the city.
“The thing for a city is if you get a concern about a dog and you don’t take appropriate action then the city is very liable should something happen,” she said.
In other business:
▪ The council said goodbye to Councilman Dan Sullivan, who is moving out of the city. Sullivan has served on the council since 2011. Mayor Rick Boeshaar is expected to appoint a replacement until this fall’s municipal election.
▪ Council members voted to provide 5 percent pay raises to City Prosecutor Steve Sakoulas and Municipal Judge Thomas Cartmell. Neither position has had a pay raise in four years.
▪ The council approved an ordinance regulating the installation and use of geothermal heat pump systems within the city. These systems can provide heating or cooling by exchanging heat to or from the ground, depending on the season.
The ordinance requires that installers be licensed by the state of Kansas, sets out requirements for their construction and permitting and bans the use of “open loop” systems, which tap into groundwater and are at a greater risk for creating pollution. “Closed loop” systems use a nontoxic antifreeze fluid for heat exchange. City Planner Jill Clifton said the city knows of 12 geothermal heat pump systems operating within Mission Hills.
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