Minneapolis now has a tougher set of restrictions for dogs that attack or threaten, following some last-minute debate Friday.

The City Council voted unanimously for the changes. But there was sharp debate over whether dogs that threaten people on their owners' property ought to be declared potentially dangerous.

The city's animal control staff now faces at least six months of work to get compliance from owners of the 350 dogs already declared dangerous or potentially so.

Those who fail to comply with rules for licensing, insurance, secure kennels and other restrictions could lose their ability to own a dog for five years. Violent felons also face limits.

The proposal doesn't go as far as some cities such as Seattle, where pit bulls get more regulation, such as mandatory sterilization and higher fees. State law forbids banning particular breeds, although state Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, plans to offer legislation to ban five breeds statewide.

The proposal sets a $75 annual license fee for dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs, There's also an annual registration fee of $200 for dangerous dogs and $100 for potentially dangerous dogs.

The city's regular license fee for a sterilized dog remains at $30. That's more than the $25 fine for not licensing a dog. But a proposal to raise that and other citation fees involving dogs was sent back to committee.

The tougher regulations were prompted by three dog attacks last spring, one of which left a northeast Minneapolis woman close to death. The city formed a task force, which included a number of dog advocates, that aimed to hold owners accountable for their dogs' actions, rather than focusing just on dog behavior.

The revised law declares dangerous a dog that attacks a human without provocation, kills another animal off the owner's property, or repeatedly attacks or tries to attack a person or animal. A late compromise also labels as dangerous a dog whose owner has the training devices or drugs used to prepare a dog to fight.

Potentially dangerous dogs are those that bite unprovoked and cause minor injury, or bite or injure another domestic animal off the owner's property. A dog could also be declared potentially dangerous for a "known propensity, tendency or disposition" to attack unprovoked, causing injury to humans or animals, but only if documented by police or animal officers.

There was sharp debate over declaring dogs potentially dangerous for behaving in a way that requires defensive action or threatens a person or animal. The council amended the proposal 9-4 that such animals should be declared potentially dangerous when the behavior occurs off the owner's property. That means that threats to a mail or paper carrier could not immediately be grounds for declaring a dog dangerous, animal control officials said.

Council Member Paul Ostrow, who favored broader language, called the change "one of the stranger votes in the last 10 years in my opinion."

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438