SUNRISE BEACH, Mo. — Lions and tigers and bears… had better beware. A new ordinance gives Sunrise Beach police the authority to kill them, along with a host of other critters deemed “dangerous”— some of which are currently kept by at least one village resident as a pet.
The Sunrise Beach Board of Trustees approved an ordinance, written by Attorney Zane Williams, which repeals a previous “Pet Ordinance” and enacted a new Animal Control Ordinance at the Monday, Feb. 8 board meeting. The ordinance defines dangerous animals and gives police the authority to kill dangerous animals and protect abused animals. It also sets fines and possible jail time for such offenses.
In the ordinance, a dangerous animal is described as all species of bears, leopards, lions, lynxes, all types of panthers, cougars, pumas, jaguars, ocelots, cheetahs, margay, mountain lions, bobcats, tigers, all venomous snakes, alligators, crocodiles, chimpanzees, orangutans, and other non-human primates, any constrictor snake of over four-feet in length, foxes, wolves and coyotes.
The ordinance gives the chief of police authority to declare any animal to be dangerous based upon past behavior of the animal, violations of the ordinance, or the inherently dangerous nature of the animal to persons or other domestic animals. Any such declaration may be challenged by the animal’s owner in the village municipal court.
According to the ordinance, the keeping and/or harboring of dangerous animals in the village is prohibited. If an animal is declared to be a dangerous animal by the chief of police, such a declaration shall be grounds for the impoundment and destruction of the animal unless, without danger to the public, it can be, and is, removed from the village within 48 hours of notice given.
A citizen questioned the board because she is the owner of a six foot constrictor. She queried, “Does this mean I can’t have the snake because it is considered dangerous by this ordinance?”
Williams responded, “The list of dangerous animals in the ordinance are ‘presumed dangerous.’” As long as the animal is controlled and not declared a danger to the public by the police, it is legal to own in the village.
The ordinance also authorizes village police officers, or any other person designated by the village, to kill any dangerous animals, when it is necessary for the protection of any person or property and the animal cannot be safely taken and impounded at an animal shelter.
Trustee Charlie Bott voiced a problem with this portion of the ordinance. He questioned Williams, saying, “So you are asking for the arbitrary killing of animals? This has already happened once before in the village.” He was referring to an incident that took place in the summer of 2015 where several pit bulls allegedly killed a dog, injured several dogs, and bit multiple people in the village. A Sunrise Beach police officer shot one of the dogs after it reportedly attacked a man that jogged past the property where the dog lived. The former ordinance did not give police the authority to shoot a dangerous animal.
According to Williams, this type of statute is used in multiple municipalities across Missouri. He said the wording was taken from the Missouri Rural Attorney Association general statutes. “Someone has to make the call when you have a dangerous animal,” he explained. “We don’t have an animal control officer.”
Mayor Curt Mooney added, “If one of our officers has a dangerous animal coming towards them they now have the right to protect themselves.”
Any person who intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence violates Section 20.020(1) (the keeping of dangerous animals) may be sentenced to a fine of up to $500, plus applicable court costs.
Animal Abuse Penalties
The ordinance also addresses animal abuse in the village. A person is guilty of animal abuse when they intentionally or knowingly kill an animal in any manner, or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause injury, suffering or pain to an animal, abandons an animal in any place without making provisions for its adequate care, or having ownership or custody of an animal, intentionally or knowingly fail to provide adequate care or control.
Any person who is guilty of animal abuse may be sentenced by a fine of up to $500, plus applicable court costs, or to a term of confinement in the county jail of up to ninety days or to both such fine and confinement or each violation.
If an animal is found to be abused, the police may ticket the owner, and the case will go before the village court. If the animal needs to be removed, Camden County Animal Control will be notified.
Trapping Feral Cats
The board also approved another ordinance which was the original catalyst for the dangerous animal ordinance change. This ordinance gives the village authority to trap community cats for the purpose of reducing the feral cat population in the village. Representatives from the STAFF Animal Shelter previously offered to trap, spay, ear tip and release community cats in the village for free, using grant funds. In order for the village to be eligible for the grant funds, changes to the ordinance were necessary.