Payson police now have a lot more options when it comes to dealing with scary dogs.
A recent change in the town code created several new categories of problem dogs, so police don't have to wait until a dog bites someone before they can take action, according to Chief Don Engler.
"In dealing with a dog off his leash that was a pretty low level of enforcement. This gives us a step to help the owner get the dog under control," said Engler.
First off, the new law made it clear that dogs must be on a leash anytime they're outside of their yards, said Engler
In addition, the new law created new categories.
Previously, the only category of dog listed was a "vicious dog," which was a dog that had at some point attacked a person. The ordinance required owners to keep such dogs locked up, post signs on their property and notify the town any time the dog was sold or moved.
However, police got reports of dogs attacking other animals, chasing kids or threatening people several times a month.
The police department spent months meeting with people and studying dog ordinances in other towns before proposing a comprehensive rewrite of the dog control laws.
"Previously, we were seeing a lot of cases where individuals would be walking their dogs -- and a larger dog would come out and pounce on the pet and create an injury to the animal," said Engler
"Likewise, we might have the situation where a dog might come out of the yard and chase a kid on a bike -- scare him -- that kind of thing."
So the new law creates two new categories for problem dogs.
A "potentially dangerous" animal would be one that had gotten loose and threatened people or other animals, without necessarily attacking them.
Anyone whose dog ends up classified as "potentially dangerous" must prove they can secure the dog in the back yard, post signs and constrain the dog on a leash. If the owner sells or moves the dog, he or she must notify the town within 72 hours.
A dangerous dog would be one that has attacked a person or another animal. Such animals must be confined in a secure back yard with a self-latching gate, with signs warning of the presence of a "vicious dog." The dog must be restrained on a six-foot leash when out of the yard and the owner must notify animal control in case the dog is sold or moved.
The dog must also be injected with a microchip to identify him -- and be up-to-date for vaccinations.
Essentially, the same restrictions apply to vicious dogs, who are classified as vicious by a judge following a serious attack on a human being.
"What we want is to be able to intervene early when we have a dog with a propensity to attack," said Engler.