Council upholds dangerous dog designation for German Shepherd
BRAINERD CITY COUNCIL
By MATT ERICKSON
Acting as judge and jury, the Brainerd City Council on Wednesday upheld a dangerous dog designation for Brainerd resident Pam Miller's German Shepherd.
Miller's dog was given that designation by animal control officer Don Hannahs following a June 22 attack on Jon and Dawn Graff's miniature pinscher in the Graffs' yard near South Eight and Wright streets in south Brainerd.
Miller, her 7-year-old granddaughter and 5-year-old grandson, and three other neighborhood children had been walking Miller's dog about 3:30 p.m. on South Eighth Street when the Graffs' dog, which was leashed to pulley system in the yard, began barking at the German Shepherd.
The shepherd, held on a leash by Miller's granddaughter, was able to pull away and attack the Graffs' dog. Jon Graff heard his dog's yelp and pulled the two dogs apart.
The Graffs' veterinary bills for the dog came to about $2,300, which Miller's homeowner's insurance covered. The Graffs' dog has since recovered.
Miller, who lives on South Seventh Street, said she has walked her dog past the Graffs' house on several occasions. She said this was the first time her dog had shown any type of aggressive behavior. Both Jon and Dawn Graff said they felt Miller's dog was dangerous.
Wednesday's appeal hearing, held at Brainerd City Hall, lasted two hours and 45 minutes with testimony from the Graffs, Miller, Brainerd Police Deputy Chief Corky McQuiston and Hannahs.
City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick said it was important for the city to uphold the dangerous dog designation for Miller's German Shepherd because it could act in a similar situation in the future.
"This particular animal, because of the behavior it demonstrated, has earned itself label of a dangerous dog (and) that the public should be cautious," Fitzpatrick said.
Miller's attorney, Brook Mallak, said Miller's dog felt provoked when the Graffs' dog came from behind landscaping in the yard and began barking at it.
"This was an isolated incident where (Miller's dog) felt she had to protect them from what she felt was a threat," Mallak said.
All but one council member disagreed, voting 4-1 to deny Miller's appeal of the dangerous dog designation.
"It's a bad situation for everybody involved," council member Kevin Goedker said. "Nobody is at fault, it's just a bad accident that happened, but I think we have obligation to do everything we can to make sure doesn't happen again."
Voting with Goedker were council members Kelly Bevans, Anne Nelson Fisher and Bonnie Cumberland.
Voting against denying Miller's appeal was council member Lucy Nesheim, who said her in-laws had German Shepherds and her own children grew up with them.
"I do believe ... that their attribute with protectiveness with children is what may have come out in it," Nesheim said. "I just don't believe this is a dangerous dog."
Council members Mark O'Day and Bob Olson were absent from Wednesday's hearing.
With her appeal denied, Miller must keep her German Shepherd in a secure enclosure, post signs for her dangerous dog, post a bond in case her dog hurts someone else and have a microchip implanted on her dog for identification, which she already has done.
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