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Dog bites Fargo police officer

Police in Fargo are reminding dog owners to leash their pets after an officer was bit in the leg Tuesday and a young girl was bit in the arm Saturday, leading to that dog being euthanized.

Criminal charges are pending against both dogs' owners, Lt. Joel Vettel said Wednesday.

In the incident Tuesday, Community Service Officer Kari Waller was called at about 4 p.m. to investigate a report of a dog chasing children in the 700 block of Countryside Trailer Court.

Waller said she had previously seen the Jack Russell terrier running loose in the neighborhood. She found it sitting on the porch in front of its home.

As Waller called to the dog, a teenager came out of the house and she asked to speak to him. He stepped down from the porch and the dog followed, barking and growling at her as they spoke, she said.

"Before he could reach down to get it, it came over to the street and bit me," she said.

Waller said she sustained about a 2-inch gash in her leg. Police impounded the dog and placed it in quarantine for 10 days to ensure it doesn't have rabies. The dog's owners couldn't provide vaccination records, Waller said.

In Saturday's incident, a medium-sized, mixed-breed dog chased a mother and two girls under age 7 in the Jefferson Elementary School park, Waller said. The dog knocked over one of the girls and bit her arm.

It was the dog's second biting incident within a month, Waller said. The dog's owner surrendered the animal with the understanding it would be euthanized, she said. The dog was put down Monday.

The city doesn't have a standard policy on when dogs must be euthanized.

"It really is going to be dependent on the severity of each incident," Waller said.

Fargo city ordinance requires owners to keep their pet on a leash not longer than 6 feet when it's not on their property.

With spring here and summer approaching, pet owners may be tempted to let their dogs run loose. But Vettel and Waller warned against it, saying it can put the pet and others in danger and carry a high price to retrieve the dog.

For instance, to get the Jack Russell terrier back, its owner will have to pay a $60 impound fee and $150 for the dog's 10-day stay at the pound, plus the costs of licensing the dog and having it vaccinated, for a total that may exceed $250, Waller and Vetter said.

And that doesn't include the possible fine for a dog-at-large infraction, which typically ranges from $250 to $500 in biting incidents, Waller said.

Vettel said police understand the sensitivity of the issue and that many pet owners view their animals as more than just property. It's up to owners, not their pets, to follow the law to keep the pets safe, he said.

"These types of situations can turn tragic pretty quick," he said.