Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly to hear ordinance revising “dangerous animal” designations

Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 10:05 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Recently, the Fairbanks North Star Borough has seen a sharp increase in the number of animals being called dangerous.

This, combined with a doubling of the yearly rate of animal bite cases, has led to an ordinance scheduled to be heard by the borough assembly at their Thursday, September 14 regular meeting.

The ordinance, sponsored by Mayor Bryce Ward, would clarify the definition of dangerous animals in the borough.

It also creates a “nuisance” animal classification that kicks in before an animal is designated dangerous. All in an effort to lower the number of situations where an animal is automatically deemed dangerous in the event of a bite.

“The whole goal and objective is to try to avoid, really, animal bites, so if we can kind of head off some of these issues before they become full-blown interactions where you’ve got an animal biting a person, or another animal, can we maybe say, ‘Hey, your animal is running astray’, deem it a nuisance, and then be able to put certain conditions on those nuisance animals to help the owners correct that behavior before it turns into something worse,” Ward said.

Last fall, the borough assembly passed an ordinance that widened the parameters for what constitutes a dangerous animal. According to Ward, that measure created barriers for owners to appeal such designations.

Thursday’s ordinance would give owners a clear path to appeal the designation for their animals.

It would also take into account factors that led to an animal bite, including “looking at the age of the animal, looking at the circumstances around the animal bite. Were they defending themselves? Were they in pain? I think we had instances where, maybe, an animal was hit by a car and in the efforts to get it into a vehicle, or to get it to an animal hospital, it ends up biting someone because it’s in pain, so that’s not necessarily a dangerous animal. It’s an animal that’s in pain and trying to defend itself,” explained Ward.