In an effort to clean up and clarify a section of the borough’s laws, on Feb. 2 the Borough Assembly gave first reading to a proposed ordinance amending the Skagway Municipal Code as it pertains to the control and welfare of animals.

A few incidents caused the municipality to examine the topic, said Chief of Police Ray Leggett.

In one of these, a man allegedly slammed a dog onto the ground. Leggett said there have also been cases of dogs attacking other dogs. The original ordinance, as well as the state law on animal cruelty, was “very vague,” said Leggett, and needed clarity. The goal with touching up the ordinance was to make it more readable, as easily understood laws help with the department’s goal of voluntary compliance.

“Be a good neighbor,” Leggett said. “If you have an aggressive dog, keep him up. Keep your dog on a leash.”

Leggett said the borough researched how other police departments, such as Anchorage, handle animal control and welfare ordinances.

Skagway was able to model its ordinance using other cities’ laws as examples.  A majority of the new code includes a long list of definitions, such as “bite,” “control of animals” and “service animal.”

“A lot of people say, ‘this is my service dog,’” Leggett said. “But what does a service dog mean, in terms of legality?”

In the proposed ordinance, “dangerous animal” now means any animal that has ever bitten or attacked a human being while exhibiting a number of aggressive behaviors, such as snarling, growling or pouncing. The matter will return before the assembly, with a chance for public comments, at the group’s next meeting on Feb. 16.