Portage council declares dog ‘vicious’

November 30, 2018


Layla is a vicious dog and can’t live in the city of Portage anymore.

That’s what the Portage Common Council decided Nov. 20 – in effect, overruling the Common Council’s Legislative and Regulatory Committee.

After the council defeated a motion to declare Layla dangerous, its members unanimously voted to declare the dog vicious, based on the police records.

By city ordinance, an animal is deemed dangerous after one documented biting incident, but may remain in the city if the owners comply with requirements designed to ensure the safety of others – including restricting the dog’s movements, posting warning signs and purchasing a dangerous animal license. Requirements for a dangerous animal license include documentation that the owner carries at least $300,000 in liability insurance for death or injury and at least $50,000 in property damage insurance, plus proof that the animal is current on its rabies vaccinations and has been spayed or neutered.

With two documented biting incidents, the ordinance deems an animal vicious, and the animal is not allowed to live in the city limits, although there is no requirement that the animal be destroyed.

Council member Bill Kutzke said the committee’s Nov. 5 decision that the dog is merely dangerous, and not vicious, contradicts the records of the Portage Police Department, which indicate that the animal has bitten people or other animals on at least two occasions.

“It certainly looks like a situation where we want to get that dog out of the city,” Kutzke said.

The matter came to the Legislative and Regulatory Committee Nov. 5, when the animal’s owner, Stephanie Bushor, exercised her right to appeal the police department’s designation of the dog as vicious.

The panel hears the appeal and makes a decision, but the Common Council has the final say.

Bushor told committee members she wanted Layla, whom she described as a pit bull, declared neither dangerous nor vicious. She said the dog is a “therapy animal” for a child, and that the Sept. 25 incident, in which Layla bit an adult, was out of character for Layla because the dog was pregnant.

Bushor said Thursday she had not been able to attend the Nov. 20 meeting and had not been told of the Common Council’s decision.

“I intend to take it to the Supreme Court and find them unconstitutional and corrupt,” she said.

In investigating the case, Police Officer Cameron Coronado told the committee that officers had uncovered an April report indicating that Layla had bitten another person – Bushor.

Bushor said the report is inaccurate, and Layla was not the dog that bit her in April.

Furthermore, she said, if Layla were vicious, she would have removed the dog from the house long ago.

Bushor said she couldn’t keep Layla even with a designation of “dangerous” instead of “vicious,” because she cannot afford the cost of meeting the liability requirements for a dangerous-animal permit, nor could she alter the property to restrict the dog’s movements, because it’s rental property.

The dangerous designation contradicts city ordinances and police records regarding the dog’s behavior, Council member Rita Maass said.

Designating the dog as a service or support animal makes no difference, Maass said.

“Even if they are a service dog, you area supposed to control that dog at all times,” she said.

Police Chief Ken Manthey said further police investigation since the committee’s hearing and ruling uncovered a third incident involving Layla, in which the dog in 2016 allegedly attacked another dog that was walking across the street.

That account also is inaccurate, Bushor said. In that case, it was the other dog that engaged with Layla, and Layla was called back to the house before any attack could happen, she said.

Council member Mark Hahn, who is on the Legislative and Regulatory Committee, said he had told Bushor the record indeed reflects more than one “out of character” incident, he said.

Layla is now at an undisclosed location outside the city limits, Bushor said, and she recently gave birth to 10 puppies.

Bushor said Layla is a well-trained service animal, and the family wants her back.

“They stripped my family of a family member,” she said.

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