“Dogs never bite me — just humans.” — Marilyn Monroe

"Beware of dog" signs are a common thing to see while driving through the streets of Columbus. The scary picture of a ferocious dog with bright-red lettering can provoke fear in the passerby. But how do you feel when you see a large, white sign with black lettering advising, “warning dangerous animal"? It’s not as scary, but it is one of the things an owner of a dangerous dog must do in order to keep the animal at their home.

The "beware of dog" signs are a person’s choice to place on their property, but when they put up the "warning dangerous animal" sign that is a requirement.

Columbus is currently home to 25 dogs that have been deemed dangerous and 75 deemed potentially dangerous dogs. Animal control tries to monitor these animals closely to make sure owners are following all guidelines. Whenever a dog is involved in an attack it needs to be evaluated to determine a possible deeming of the dog. The requirements for deeming and what constitutes a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog are laid out in Nebraska State Statutes 54-617 to 54-624.

A dangerous dog is defined as a dog that has killed a human or domestic animal without provocation, injured a human to the point that they need medical treatment such as suturing, or been previously deemed a potentially dangerous dog then did something that would deem it potentially dangerous again.

A potentially dangerous dog is a dog that when unprovoked has injured a human that does not require suturing, injures a domestic animal or chases a person in a menacing fashion that causes fear in that person.

In each bite case, animal control evaluates all evidence prior to deeming. A big determinant is provocation. We need to figure out if the attack was provoked or not. The more witnesses to the attack the better, and there have been many cases where a dog was never deemed because it was provoked. Just because a dog does not like bikes does not mean it is provoked when someone rides by the animal on a bike.

Once a dog is deemed potentially dangerous or dangerous the owner has the right to an appeal and must file it within 48 hours at the city clerk’s office. If the dog is deemed potentially dangerous it stops at that unless the dog does something that fits into the guidelines to redeem it. But if the dog is deemed dangerous there are a number of things the owner must comply with to keep the dog.

First, the dog must be spayed or neutered and microchipped. Second, the owner must place the appropriate warning signs at public-access points on their property. Third, the dog may not be left alone outside without being secured in a kennel run that fits specifications per the state statutes. Fourth, the dog may not leave city limits unless it is going to a veterinary appointment and then it needs to be returned home.

If the owner wants to move the dog to another jurisdiction permanently, they must get the animal control authority of that jurisdiction to mail or fax an approval letter to animal control in Columbus. Some jurisdictions allow dangerous dogs, but there are many in Nebraska that will refuse the dangerous dog.

Lastly, I know as you’re reading this article you are thinking that the majority of the dangerous dogs in Columbus are pit bulls. You would be wrong. There are five pit bulls on the list, but there are also five Labrador retrievers on that list. There are four shepherd mixes on the list, as well, along with a smorgasbord of other dogs. There are many other dogs on the potentially dangerous list.

Columbus Animal Control Officer Shawn Flowers can be reached at sflowers@columbusne.us or 402-564-8839.

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