Linwood board’s ruling upheld in appeal of dangerous dog designation

Owner plans to move the animal out of the township


Alice Pickering
Linwood Reporter

At an appeal hearing during the Linwood Town Board meeting on Sept. 24, Julie Zuercher provided evidence aimed at convincing the board to reverse its decision to declare her dog, Gunner, a “potentially dangerous animal.”

The board’s designation stemmed from two separate incidents involving attacks on adult strangers.

Zuercher appeared “asking for another chance.” She provided statements from her grandmother, mother and friends, who know the dog and interact with him. She said Gunner has never been aggressive toward them. She has Gunner enrolled in an obedience class to begin this month. She has him leashed when he is out of the kennel and muzzled. Zuercher is also using a training collar on him. She has not yet purchased liability insurance because of the cost.

One victim, Jason Cramer, lives in the neighborhood and does not feel safe around the dog.

Supervisor Mike Halliday wondered what assurances there are that future incidents will not take place. Supervisor Bob Millerbernd does not trust the dog and is concerned about the potential for attacks on children. Laura Hermann, a bike rider, said she would not be able to fend off a dog and there is always a chance the dog could attack again.

Attorney Mike Haag recommended upholding the original determination to enforce restrictions on the dog rather than putting it down. He listed the conditions whereby Zuercher could keep the dog at her residence. They include, in part, a proper enclosure, signs to identify a dangerous dog, liability insurance in the amount of $300,000, and keeping him muzzled and chained while he is outside the enclosure. A license would have to be reviewed annually.

Zuercher indicated that she cannot afford all that would be required and said she learned that animal shelters will not accept him. She plans to move the dog out of the township. The board requested documentation showing that the dog has moved.

The board unanimously approved the restrictions Haag identified but wants stronger language in the regulations. Haag will draft the decision in the form of an ordinance to be incorporated into the township’s code.

Attorney’s updates

Regarding ongoing discussion on roads, Haag determined that 35 percent of property owners must consent to a feasibility study for road improvements. However, 65 percent of residents along the affected road must agree to a project within 60 days in order for the work to begin. The board approved this policy by a 5-0 vote.

Haag is also completing work on separate policies related to adult entertainment and areas of the township where convicted sexual predators may reside. These will be also be developed so they can be adopted as ordinances.

Firefighter assets

Linwood firefighters voted to move their assets from the Fire Relief Association to the Public Employees Retirement Association. Fire Chief Darryl Ballman explained the decision, which supervisors unanimously supported. The action is effective Jan. 1, 2014. Supervisors voted to keep the level of benefit at $2,000 per year of service in the department. There is no additional cost to the township.

The board approved $30,000 to re-fit Grass Rig 2 to replace Rescue 5, which has reached the end of its useful life. Plans were to replace the rescue truck in 2015, but it needs to be done sooner. Money to complete the work will come from the Fire Capital Fund.

Other business

In other business, the board:

– Passed a resolution certifying the township’s 2014 levy at $1.5 million. Linwood’s levy has been set at or below this mark since 2009, dropping to $1.42 million in 2010. The levy and the 2014 budget, in the amount of $1,769,281, were approved by residents via voice votes at the township’s annual meeting in March.

– Approved a job description for the Senior Center coordinator position, which is designed to be 20-25 hours a week. Supervisor Ed Kramer urged promotion of the center to incorporate activities for some of the youth in the township. There was discussion about expanding the role of the coordinator related to future activities. This is to be discussed at future meetings.

– Learned from a representative of Oxford Township that the Isanti County community wants to partner with Linwood to pave Typo Creek Drive Northeast. Both townships are looking to 2017 to complete the project and will accumulate money for the work in the meantime.

– Approved a plan for a property division for Edward and Harriet Halsman, who plan to sell a portion of their property to Tim and Diana Puffer.