Royal Oak dangerous dog law requires $1M insurance policies

Royal Oak officials said they hope that a new ordinance will prevent vicious attacks by dogs like two incidents reported by police last year.
In October, an attack by a Doberman pinscher outside a Royal Oak grocery store left a Warren man with a broken nose and impaired breathing that required surgery. And in December, a police officer shot two pit bulls after the unlicensed dogs fatally mauled a smaller rat terrier that was on a walk with its owner.
The pit-bull attack prompted City Commissioner Patricia Capello, a professed dog lover, to push for the new regulations, she said. Among the rules for dogs the city deems dangerous are requirements for owners to lock the dog’s yard, take obedience training, have an ID microchip implanted in the dog’s ear and obtain a $1-million insurance policy.
“People say, ‘$1 million, that’s a lot,’ but that coverage is not excessive,” Capello said.
“It’s worth it to have the peace of mind that you won’t lose your home” in a potential lawsuit, she said. Such a policy would cost the typical homeowner $112 a year, said Ricky Spano, an Allstate agent in Warren.
The new ordinance, which took effect last week, “is mainly to protect people who have been challenged or frightened or restricted by someone else’s dog,” said Capello, owner of three mixed-breed canines that she rescued from animal shelters — a Rhodesian Ridgeback, a spitz and a Japanese chin.
The ordinance was modeled after one in Farmington Hills that also requires $1 million in liability insurance for owners of dogs with a history of bites or attacks, Royal Oak City Attorney Dave Gillam said.
“If, after 18 months, no new problems arise with the dog, the owner can go to the city’s animal review board and ask to have their pet reclassified,” Gillam said. “If the board lifts the (dangerous) classification, they can drop the insurance.”
Waterford and Westland also require insurance for owners of dogs that the community has deemed are potentially dangerous, Gillam said.
During the Royal Oak City Commission’s discussions of the new ordinance, a string of residents and visitors spoke, including Jodie Ellison — wife of Mayor Jim Ellison and owner of Play and Stay Pet Care Center in Troy, where dozens of dogs and other household pets are cared for daily.
Jodie Ellison and others mainly implored officials not to pass a “breed-specific” ordinance that would ban pit bulls from the city, such as the ban in effect since 1990 in Waterford.
“Once you start banning a breed, then you don’t look at individual behavior and a few issue-ridden dogs can slip through the cracks,” Ellison said.

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