BIDDEFORD – In the wake of a pit bull attack on a local police officer and other reports of dog attacks, a Biddeford councilor is proposing an aggressive dog ordinance that may require dogs of a certain size or breed to be muzzled in public.

“(Dogs are) like a weapon and they’re unpredictable,” David Bourque said. “It’s something that needs to be addressed.”

Just last week, an 18-month-old Windham boy was bitten by his grandparents’ pit bull Kappa, which was destroyed and tested for rabies. Another pit bull in Waterville was euthanized after it bit a 6-year-old in August and a 2-year-old earlier this month.

And in July, a Biddeford police officer was forced to shoot and kill a pit bull that bit him on the leg and tried to attack a second time.

Borque said he’s been thinking about proposing a local ordinance about dangerous dogs for some time, but did not reveal any specific language. Although he is talking about including breed-specific language, Maine law states that although local municipalities can adopt more stringent regulations, they cannot adopt breed-specific laws or ordinances.

Bourque said he wants a local ordinance to regulate aggressive dogs in public, and to spell out possible punishments for a dog owner, such as holding the owner responsible for paying the victim’s medical bills. Another possibility would be to require some dog owners to carry insurance.

Biddeford Police Chief Roger Beaupre said state laws regarding dangerous dogs are already enforced.

If a complaint is filed about a dangerous dog — one that is threatening or has a history of biting — a court can order that the dog be confined or euthanized. Beaupre said the city has euthanized about one dog a year under court order in the past six years. There is also a civil penalty for keeping a dangerous dog, punishable by fines from $250 to $1,000.

The idea of requiring larger dogs to be muzzled is unreasonable, said Joe McKenney, chair of the Biddeford Dog Park Committee.

“You could have a little dog that’s just as aggressive as a large dog,” he said.

But McKenney agreed with the idea of holding dog owners more accountable. He and his fiancee have four dogs, one of which doesn’t get along with other dogs. McKenney said they avoid exposing that dog to situations that trigger aggression.

“I don’t see it as a major issue in our city, but it certainly can’t hurt to have an ordinance on the books to hold owners responsible,” he said.

Steve Jacobsen, executive director of the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk, also questioned the idea of targeting dogs of a particular size or breed. It’s not always the dog or the breed that is problematic, he said.

“It’s got an awful lot to do with the nurturing of the animal from the time it’s a puppy. An animal that is properly socialized and properly trained can be a great pet,” Jacobsen said.

Waterville Police Chief Joe Massey is also considering creating a local ordinance in the wake of dog attacks. He says pit bulls should be kept out of homes with kids.

Liam Hughes, the state’s animal welfare director, said the Maine Animal Welfare Program is working on proposed revisions to state law to make it stronger, such as possibly boosting penalties or increasing dog owner liability for attacks.

“The hardest part is (that) we have to be fair to the good dog owners and people who follow the laws no matter what type of breed they have. We want to make sure people who are reckless are held accountable,” he said.

Bourque plans to present a draft ordinance at the city’s next Policy Committee meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. Oct. 3.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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