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Elon snaps back at dangerous dogs

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In Washington, D.C, a dog widely known to be vicious may get its own Secret Service detail to chew on. In the town of Elon, however, a bleaker fate could await such an ill-tempered hound – thanks to a new set of rules that have all but secured the approval of the municipality’s leaders.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, the council gave its tentative nod to some proposed ordinance revisions that the town’s administrators had drafted in response to one canine’s four-month reign of terror earlier this year.

The town’s experience with this dog was quite an eye-opener for Elon’s police chief Kelly Blackwelder, who admitted that her officers were initially frustrated in their attempts to bring the unruly animal to heel.

“The owners were uncooperative and hostile with the town’s attempts to mitigate the situation,” Blackwelder recalled during Monday’s proceedings. “And as we kind of felt our way through, we realized there were issues with our current ordinance that we wanted to clean up.”

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To wit, Blackwelder proposed some provisions that would allow the police department to take custody of a dog that had previously been deemed dangerous and had been spotted running at large. The proposed changes would also enable her officers to act without giving the dog owner’s an official warning, and it makes it illegal for a dog owner to refuse to surrender a canine to the police department.

Blackwelder added that she has decided to scrap another set of provisions that had been pitched to the council earlier this month to make it explicit that the police department can take legal action against dangerous dogs in an emergency.

“The feedback I got it that is was not well received by the council,” she added.

Blackwelder argued that the proposed changes which have survived the editing process might not have addressed every aspect of the vicious dog case which baffled her department earlier this year. She insisted, however, that they would enable her officers to be “more proactive and more responsive” in a comparable situation.

Elon police chief Kelly Blackwelder

Blackwelder went on to note that the town’s police force is equipped with a “catchpole” that officers will be able to use to restrain potentially dangerous dogs. She conceded that her subordinates don’t otherwise have “the training or the tools” of professional animal control officers, although she voiced her full confidence that they can handle anything that comes at them with fur bristling and teeth angrily bared.

“The most dangerous animals we deal with are humans,” she went on to concede, “and we deal with them all the time.”

The members of Elon’s town council were in unanimous agreement with Blackwelder’s proposed changes, although they decided not to adopt the provisions on Monday due to some obsolete references in the draft to the town’s “board of aldermen” – a designation that predates the change in nomenclature last year that transformed the aldermen into a “council.”  The council instructed the town’s staff to update these references so the ordinance can come back up for a final decision on December 12.

The council had no similar qualms about the town’s proposed land management ordinance, which they unanimous voted to adopt along with a new zoning map for the community.  The council took this step despite the general recognition among its members that the ordinance would need some additional fine-tuning after it passes.

“We’ll pass the ordinance,” councilman Randy Orwig said on this score before the council’s 5-to-0 decision, “and if we find anything that needs changing, we’ll change it.”

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