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Helmut Schmidt, Published December 30 2008

Dog owner seeks tougher laws after pit bull mauled pet

Steve Candor is getting the chance to put some teeth into Fargo’s animal control ordinance.

Candor, whose dog, Mischief, was badly mauled in an attack by a pit bull near his south Fargo home in September, was given the OK Monday by the City Commission to work with police and other officials to update the city’s animal control laws.

Candor said he wants to prevent attacks by dangerous dogs and make dog owners more responsible for their animals.

“There is no teeth” in Fargo’s law, said Candor, who has been researching animal control laws in the region.

Candor said he doesn’t want to ban any breeds, but he does want to put the onus on owners of breeds known for aggression to control the animals, train them, and prove they aren’t a danger.

He said higher licensure fees for breeds such as pit bulls, Staffordshire bull terriers, American bulldogs and other breeds often kept for aggressiveness may help.

Owners of some breeds should also be required to have insurance to pay for damages, and the dogs should be tested for aggressiveness, he said. There should also be stiffer fines for violations, Candor said.

“I’ve heard people say they (pit bulls) make great pets. I say, fine, as long as the owner is required to be responsible,” Candor said. “Their word, I don’t think, is going to do it.”

Candor’s wife, Judy, had been walking their German shepherd mix, Mischief, about 10:20 a.m. Sept. 14 two blocks east of their home, according to a police report.

Then, a pit bull attacked Mischief and ripped a 12- to 14-inch gash of skin and fur from her back, Candor said. A nearby resident tried to help get the pit bull to release Mischief, the report said.

A teen girl, later identified as the granddaughter of the dog’s owner, Florentino Rodriguez, then pulled the pit bull away, the police report said.

Rodriguez, 67, of 1527 10th Ave. S., Apt. 3, pleaded guilty to failing to confine a vicious dog and paid a $500 fine, according to Fargo Municipal Court documents. He was also ordered to pay $2,562.13 for Mischief’s medical bills, documents show.

Candor said he didn’t know if the pit bull had been euthanized or moved away from the neighborhood.

An attempt to contact Rodriguez at his home was unsuccessful, and a phone number was not listed under his name or for the address.

Mischief’s wound has mostly healed. There is now just a set of white scars under her regrown coat to show where she had been bitten.

Other wounds haven’t healed. Judy Candor won’t walk either of their two dogs in Fargo. She also declined to talk about the attack.

“All I do is have nightmares after that,” she said. “I can’t sleep. It’s not worth it.”

Police Chief Keith Ternes said he is looking at animal control ordinances from Akron, Ohio, and Hugoton, Kan.

Ternes said he’ll put together a group including animal control officers, local veterinarians and others to work with Candor over the next six to eight weeks to produce a model ordinance that the city attorney can examine.

“My whole goal is to make the city of Fargo as safe for the people as we can,” Candor said. “That’s my mission.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583