Iowa Court Rules Dangerous Dog Ordinance is Too Vague

Pinky is a mixed-breed dog was lives in the city of Des Moines, Iowa. One day, Pinky was mistakenly let into the front yard by a family friend. Pinky spotted the neighbor’s cat, and proceeded to grab the cat in her mouth.

The cat was not killed, but it required over 36 staples to close its wounds. The cat’s owner called animal control who took Pinky into custody.

The city of Des Moines has a dangerous animal law. According to this law, any animal that had a propensity to viciousness and had attacked another animal to the point that the other animal or person suffered a laceration, fracture or needed surgery was deemed a dangerous animal.

This designation fit what happened in the incident between Pinky and cat. Pinky was ordered to be euthanized. However, Pinky’s new owner, the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, filed suit to block the city’s order.

The case made its way to the Iowa Court of Appeals which has ruled by a 3-2 margin that the dangerous animal ordinance in the city of Des Moines is too vague rendering it unconstitutional. Pinky has won a reprieve.

The court found the law to be vague in a number of different areas. The justices had problems with the term “vicious tendencies”. The majority felt that this was not defined, and they felt that one incident may not be enough to state that an animal had vicious tendencies when the dog had been gentle in the past.

One justice stated that the law was too vague because it might classify a cat as a dangerous animal for practicing natural behavior. The justice gave the example of a cat killing or maiming a wild bird.

The justices in the majority made it clear that in order for a dangerous animal law to be enforceable in the city of Des Moines, the city would have to be more detailed in the law. The court also suggested that one person should not be able to determine if an animal was vicious.





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