City Council reviewing multiple city ordinances following deadly dog attack

A deadly dog fight caught on video Friday has prompted St. Joseph City Council to review multiple city ordinances regarding household pets.

Posted: Oct 14, 2019 6:42 PM
Updated: Oct 15, 2019 2:11 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A deadly dog fight caught on video Friday has prompted St. Joseph City Council to review multiple city ordinances regarding household pets. 

The incident happened on a property near 19th and Lafayette Streets. A neighbor, Mandy Wright, captured the pack of seven or eight dogs violently attacking and killing a young puppy. 

Previous story: Outrage across social media after dog attack.

"The public is disgusted. They're outraged that something like this would happen within our community," Brian Myers, city councilman, said. "They want their city leaders to investigate and do something about it and that's exactly what is happening right now."

The incident sparked an investigation by the City's Health Department to determine whether or not the dog owner, John Martorelli, violated any city ordinances. Myers said it's too early in the investigation to tell if Martorelli will receive any citations, but it has given the council a lot to think about.

"This isn't something we're going to drop the ball on," Myers said. "If we need to make changes to our city code to ensure that something like this doesn't happen again, then that's exactly what we're going to fight to do."

Myers, and at least one other councilmember, will review the city ordinances regarding harboring a vicious animal and regulating dog breeding within city limits. 

The current city code defines a vicious dog as, "any dog which bites, inflicts injury, assaults or otherwise attacks a human being or domestic animal without provocation on public or private property."

However, the St. Joseph Animal Shelter said one incident like this doesn't immediately make an animal vicious.

"It's a liability having that many animals, especially dogs. They have the pack mentality and there were several circumstances, you know, that could have led to the behavior of those dogs acting in the way that they did," Jennifer Lockwood, St. Joseph Animal Shelter, said. 

Lockwood added that they are taking the investigation very seriously, and while people tend to think of their animals as loving pets, it's important to remember that they are still just that - an animal. 

"While we have certain morals and values and such that we put on our pets, they don't necessarily think the same way we do," Lockwood said. "So it is kind of a hard pill to swallow sometimes that our dogs and our cats, they are still animals."

Though Myers said he believes the attack does define the pack of dogs as vicious.

"By my interpretation of the city code, and I know I'm not alone in feeling this way, these animals are vicious animals," Myers said. 

The councilmembers are also looking into the ordinance regulating dog breeding within city limits. Myers said he can't say whether or not the owner, Martorelli, is or is not a breeder, only that illegal breeding is an issue in St. Joseph.

"The only way to curve a lot of that activity is to make people register, if they're not already required to do so, and have their animals inspected on a semi-regular basis to ensure they're not being overbred and that current health code guidelines are being followed," Myers said. 

Both the councilman and Lockwood said that because the investigation is ongoing, they can't go into detail about the specific ordinances they may or may not believe Martorelli violated. However, Lockwood did say that she believes he will be receiving citations eventually. 

The animal shelter added that the breed of the dogs should not play a role in determining whether or not they're perceived as vicious pets. The majority, if not all, of the dogs involved in the attack on Friday were Pitbulls.

"People are a little leary of Pitbulls anyways and it's unfortunate that this did happen with Pitbulls but it really could have happened with any breed of dog," Lockwood said. "It's just that number of animals can just determine how a dog's behavior plays out in a situation."

St. Joseph does not have a current city ordinance that prohibits people from having a certain amount of animals in their homes. 

"We have to be careful when we enact new codes to make sure that we're not punishing the majority just because we have a few statistical outliers that abuse the right of having an animal," Myers said. 

Council has not made any official moves towards changing or revising any ordinance as of this time. 

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