Council looking to ban any new pit bulls within the city limits

By Charlie Warner
Argus Editor

Spurred on by an attack of a pit bull that resulted in the death of another dog and injuries to its owner, the Caledonia City Council spent considerable time discussing the creation of a dangerous and vicious animal ordinance last week.

According to Caledonia Police Chief Kurt Zehnder, Helen Olson was walking her miniature pinscher along the 800 block of East Grove Street on May 8 around 1 p.m. when a pit bull attacked the small dog, mauled it and ultimately killed it. Olson sustained injuries to her hand as she attempted to pull the pit bull from her dog. Her injuries required medical attention.

The pit bull was taken into custody by City Animal Control Officer Mike Gavin and observed for 10 days. The dog had all its shots. But it was discovered the dog had a micro chip identifying the animal as a potentially dangerous dog. The micro chip was placed in the dog, per state statute, following an attack that occurred when the dog was not living in Caledonia.

The dog has been put down.

“We need to put our foot down on this issue,” Zehnder told the council. “I was there. I saw what happened. It was horrendous. What happened to that small dog made me sick. We were so fortunate that a child wasn’t involved. We could have had a fatality.”

Gavin told the council that the only breed of dog he has had issues with are pit bulls and half-breed pit bulls.

“I believe the background and the breeding of this type of dog makes them quite vicious. This is one breed of dog I really don’t think we want in our community,” Gavin said. “What happened on Grove Street is indescribable.”

Zehnder said there are other cities that do not allow pit bulls. He cited Minneapolis as one major municipality that has zero tolerance for pit bulls. He added that pit bulls are illegal in the state of Colorado.

“People have had many bad experiences with pit bulls,” Zehnder said. “That’s why they have zero tolerances in many places.”

City Clerk/Administrator Jennifer Feely said City Attorney Tim Murphy recommended that a separate ordinance dealing with vicious dogs be prepared and approved by the council.

It was pointed out that pit bulls currently in Caledonia will be grandfathered in. But, like all dogs,  they must be licensed, which will help Gavin and the local police department keep better track of them. But no new pit bulls or half-breeds will be allowed within the city limits.

The topic will be revisited at the June 11 council meeting and the new ordinance possibly approved.

In other council action:

Police cars

Zehnder informed the council that the new police car will be arriving in the near future. Several pieces of equipment from the squad that will be retired won’t fit on the new car. He estimated the equipment swap snafu will cost just under $500.

“It’s too bad no one saw that coming, but you have continued to run your department under budget each year and I commend you for that,” Councilman Tom Murphy told Zehnder.

Zehnder then told the council that the city of Spring Grove will be retiring a 2006 Ford Crown Victoria with 103,000 miles on it when they purchase a new car later this year. He felt the city could purchase the car for $4,000.

Zehnder said the purchase of the used squad would improve the city’s fleet. Due to state aid cuts, the department has been forced to squeeze several more years out of their squad cars and the one that is scheduled to be rotated out next year has been costing the city copious amounts of money in repairs.

For $4,000, the council agreed it would be a prudent thing to do.

A motion by Mayor Bob Burns and seconded by Councilwoman Randi Vick to approve the purchase of the used squad for $4,000 was unanimously approved.


Gavin reported that there seems to be an increasing skunk problem in the city. He has trapped 15 skunks in the past couple of weeks, and knows of at least several more “pockets” of skunks.

Gavin explained that the majority of the skunks are living under utility sheds that have wooden floors. They are able to dig under the wooden floor of a shed and exist quite nicely there. Sheds located on cement slabs or sheds with gravel or dirt floors don’t provide for the same “homey” conditions sheds with wooden floors do.

The council will take a look at changing the city’s ordinance dealing with utility sheds to alleviate  the problem. In the meantime, Gavin will continue to trap the black and white animals.

Pedestrian crossing lights

The council approved a motion to order the pedestrian crossing light system that will be located over Highways 44/76 at the intersection of Foltz Drive. The cost of the system is approximately $11,000. The other crosswalk lights will also be reinstalled following the highway improvement project this summer.

Utility vacation approved

The council approved the utility vacation for Jim Hoscheit. Hoscheit plans to construct a new home located at 605 East Park Street but needs the utility easement.

A public hearing was held, no one presented any testimony, for or against the proposed vacation.

A motion by Burns and seconded by Councilman Paul Fisch to approve the vacation was unanimously approved.

You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]

  • yankeeterrier

    While I certainly agree that what happened to Ms. Olson and her dog is horrible, punishing all bully breed owners for that action of one is NOT appropriate. Mr. Gavin first needs to get his facts straight. Colorado does not have any state wide breed discriminatory legislation. While Denver does have BDL in effect, many groups are working fervently to reverse this, following the general trend of repealing breed specific and replacing with general dangerous dog legislation. Independent studies, one after the other, have proven that BDL does not work and that bully breeds are no more dangerous inherently than any other breeds. I do not believe that the only issues he encounters involve bullies.

    As an owner and breeder of AKC American Staffordshire Terriers for 35 years, my dogs do not run at large, none have bitten or been deemed dangerous. Yet this law would effectively end my ability to continue to show my breed of choice due to no fault of my own. Do not write my situation off as unique. Many high quality AKC show AmStaffs originate in Minnesota.

  • Robin Cascella

    I completely agree with that statement by Yankeeterrier. Breed Specific Legislation does not work and is discrimination.Other cities are working to repeal these same laws you wish to enact. While your circumstances are sad, are you sure it was a “Pit Bull” or was it what someone thought was a “Pit Bull?” There is no recognized breed by the AKC as “Pit Bull.” On a more personal note, when a situation occurred with my husband’s dog, deemed a “Pit,” I was able to offer DNA that stated 50% Great Dane, 25% Lab and 25% mixed. All your legislation will do is run it underground and make these type dogs a hot commodity. Prohibition didn’t work and neither will this. A recent study showed the most aggressive and bitey dogs are Chihuahuas and Daschounds. Are you banning them too? Please rethink your agenda I can be reached at 904.610.7119. Thanks!!!


  • hill0786

    Intresting…How precisely does the city plan on getting around This?

    MN Statute 347.51, Subd. 8. Local ordinances.
    A statutory or home rule charter city, or a county, may not adopt an ordinance regulating dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs BASED SOLELY ON THE SPECIFIC BREED OF THE DOG. Ordinances inconsistent with this subdivision are void.

  • Nancy Krohn

    Not only is BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) illegal in MN., it is illegal for good reason: It DOES NOT WORK!

    Although my heart goes out to MS. Olson, over the horrible loss of her precious dog and her own personal injuries and trauma, the fact remains; if the OWNER of the Pit Bull had obeyed current regulations and kept his dog penned or on a leash, this tragedy never would have happened. How is it that a previously designated “Dangerous Dog”, was running loose? Had the dog received any training or rehabilitation after it’s first offense? Were extra safety precautions put in place to ensure no repeat offenses? Apparently not.

    I have no idea why that particular Pit Bull chose to attack but banning an entire breed (which is actually a number of breeds and mixed breeds in practice) is not the answer to loose dogs attacking other dogs or people!

    Enforce the rules that are already in place and add stiffer penalties for violations, abuse and neglect of ALL breeds of dogs. THAT’s how to stop tragedies like this from happening ~ not by banning a breed that was for decades a beloved family dog and so adored and trusted that it was known as “America’s Nanny Dog”. Pitties aren’t BORN viscous ~ PEOPLE make them viscous. Don’t ban the breed ~ ban the people who would exploit or fail to properly care for them!

    I have written several articles regarding this topic on my blogs: and

    Education is the key to safer neighborhoods ~ Not discrimination and profiling.

  • town crier

    the owner of the dog that wouldn’t even go down after the cops tazzed it is to blame. letting that vicious dog run outside like it was is the real reason this happened. a welfare case that us taxpayers support. glad that dog got what it deserved… non-existence. oh the owner didn’t get tazzed but then again….???

  • ticked off

    WOW!! I would really like to see what your response would be if it were YOUR dog, spouse or child that got bit by this vicious dog!! Or worse yet–killed!! YES, this WAS definately a pit bull, Mrs. Olson knows what one looks like and so does the officer that went on the call AND so does the CHIEF OF POLICE who was called in to help!
    To compare this to prohibition is completely idiotic!! Not allowing the town’s people to drink alcohol and not allowing a dangerous dog in city limits are two very different things as i’m sure most people would agree!
    Are any of you people who are on the “No BDL band wagon” familiar with Caledonia? We are not a big city, we are a small rural community. It’s a nice place to live and raise a family! The kinda town where you still kinda know most of the people in it.
    This dog viciously attacked another dog while living on a farm, for what ever reason the irresponsible owner brought it into city limits where it attacked another dog!! To my understanding, they were told to get rid of the dog and before they could go back and check to see that the owner had done so, Mrs. Olson’s dog was very brutally killed! No–not just killed–horrifyingly shredded right infront of her!! She has 2 kids that normally walked their dog!! What in the world whould have happened if it was them walking the dog that day??
    Who gives a crap here that a pit bull is made up of several different breeds?? It’s the end product that- in most cases- is dangerous!! By the way–saying that chihuahuas and daschounds are the most aggressive dogs is just plain silly! Sure, they are barky and bity and could probably bite you in the face but a pit bull could rip your face OFF!!!
    I love all animals, i love dogs and i think the pit bull does get a bad rap sometimes but for the love of God- my friend could have been killed!!
    Kudos to the town crier for saying what they felt! If you can’t support your kids, you shouldn’t be able to own a dog of that magnitude!!