Marquette continues steps to limit dog issues in the city

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By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

The city of Marquette continued steps at its regular meeting Sept. 8 to deal with dog issues in the community—whether threatening behavior toward humans or other pets, or running at large without a leash.

The council approved second readings of two different ordinance amendments, one regarding animal protection and control and another about a dangerous or vicious animal. The first readings were approved at the council’s August meeting.

Mayor Steve Weipert described the ordinances at the previous meeting: “One is for if your animal gets out and it doesn’t cause any problems and it’s just out running around, then it’s an animal at large. You pay your fine and it’s done with. If your animal gets out and is deemed to be vicious, then it’s going to be removed from the city and it goes to court. There is no more coming to the city council and asking us if it’s a vicious dog or not. The court system will determine that, and the dog will be out of the city the entire time.”

Weipert had hoped for the waiving of the third reading, followed by final passage of the ordinance amendments, at last Tuesday’s meeting, but only three of five council members were present—not enough to make it official.

“The longer we wait,” he worried, “the better chance we’re going to have another incident.”

Also up for consideration was another ordinance that would require dog owners to get a pet license through the city for a small annual fee. The council first discussed the ordinance last month, but chose not to take action on a first reading until reviewing it further.

Mar-Mac Police Chief Robert Millin said these licenses are not uncommon in other communities. It would be helpful for officers, making it easier for them to identify animals and document whose dog is whose. Rather than taking lost dogs to the animal shelter, they could return pets directly to the owner.

“We would still maybe cite them, but we wouldn’t have to take the dog to Prairie,” he said.

“We’d also know if [the dog] is up to date, vaccinated and healthy in case something happens,” Millin added.

The council’s main concern was if the city staff would have time for additional paperwork and documentation. 

“There are probably 60 dogs in town,” estimated councilman Ryan Young.

City clerk Bonnie Basemann said the annual fee for a license would be $10—enough to cover the city’s cost—and owners would be expected to pay it between April and June each year. People who own second homes in the community would also be required to register their dogs.

Those who don’t comply could be assessed a late fee or potentially cited with a simple misdemeanor, which currently comes with a minimum fine of $65.

The council approved the first reading of the ordinance and will consider additional readings at upcoming meeting(s).

Parking issues discussed

Another topic of discussion at last week’s meeting was parking. There were a number of complaints Labor Day weekend, noted Millin.

“The riverfront had the most issues, with the majority on the dike,” where parking is not allowed, he explained. 

Although no parking signage is posted, Weipert said part of the problem was the city forgot to put cones out.

Officers issued tickets, but with just a $15 penalty, Millin said the time, wages and paperwork needed to collect the fine put the department and city at a disadvantage.

“You need to consider raising parking fines,” he told the council.

Weipert agreed: “For people from Waterloo and Cedar Rapids, a $15 fine is nothing to them to park that close to the riverfront. We need to make it high enough to deter them.”

Additionally, Weipert said the city needs to work with the DNR regarding unattached boat trailers on the riverfront. The area is DNR property, but the city maintains it. “People drive away and the trailer sits for days,” he shared.

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