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Our View: City should look at vicious dog policies after attack

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It has been weeks since four pitbulls attacked a 17-year-old in a public parking lot in Downtown Auburn. Yet city leaders have said very little publicly about the incident, or what if anything they intend to do to prevent further serious injuries or deaths. That’s especially ironic because the city has made a huge investment in order to entice shoppers to Downtown and Old Town. The very parking lot in which Jojo Kerschner was attacked by vicious dogs is where the city suggests residents park while shopping Downtown during construction. Auburn Police Capt. John Ruffcorn told Journal reporter Jenifer Gee that Jojo “was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Jojo was meeting his parents and grandparents for dinner Sept. 16 at a Downtown restaurant. That is exactly why the city is spending $12 million-plus, to drive business — and tax revenue — Downtown. Auburn needs the business. We want families to feel safe while shopping, eating and enjoying the sights Downtown. It’s the attack dogs that were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Auburn city government is far from alone in dealing with vicious dogs. There are myriad other municipalities that have faced similar challenges. But, city officials have a responsibility to ensure Auburn residents and visitors are safe. There is currently no specified limit on how many dogs can be housed in a private family resi-dence within the city. Dan Coverston, the owner of the four pitbulls, told the Journal that when his dogs run together they have a pack mentality. He even said he gives them anti-aggression shots. Coverston also said his gate did not work well prior to the attack. (He has since installed a new fence and gate.) Some basics for the City Council to consider might include a limit on the number of dogs allowed per household. Also, properly fenced yards with functioning gate mechanisms should be required to hold dogs, especially near public parking lots and schools. It’s outrageous that after attacking and almost killing a teenager, the Auburn pitbulls were returned to their owner’s mother to keep on the same property for the night. If a pack of humans attacks and sends an innocent bystander to the hospital with serious injuries, surely they are immediately arrested and incarcerated if caught in the act. Why not vicious dogs? In some counties, like El Dorado, dogs can be shot on sight for harassing livestock. What is the message here? If a dog attacks a sheep, it can be killed, but if it attacks a person, it deserves its day in court? That doesn’t pass the common-sense test. City police, led by Capt. Ruffcorn, rightfully incarcerated the pitbulls at the county animal shelter the next day after the attack. And now a too-lengthy hearing process is under way. Capt. Ruffcorn and the Auburn Police Department appear to be following through diligently to ensure the dogs are not returned Downtown and that their owner is prosecuted, if he is indeed found negligent. It’s the City Council that now needs to do some work. Residents are outraged by the city’s weak reaction to the dog attack. Read the letters to the editor in the Journal, the online comments or just ask anyone on the street. Taxpayers want common-sense safety measures and procedures enacted. At a time when the streets are torn up, city officials should be doing everything they can to make Downtown and Old Town as appealing as possible to residents and tourists alike. Thankfully, Jojo Kerschner is going to be OK. But at the very least the City Council should reconsider its policies on dealing with vicious dogs. And reassure taxpayers that steps are being taken to ensure this type of attack doesn’t happen again within its borders.