City Talks Animal Control
Tuesday, August 12, 2008 9:57 AM CDT
By Mary L. Crider
TIMES RECORD • MCRIDER@...
GREENWOOD — Greenwood officials spent about an hour Monday night discussing animal control needs with residents, then adjourned the study meeting with a promise of another sometime next week.
About 50 people were present at the meeting in the Fire Department training room, including the mayor, police chief, some police officers, the city attorney, five City Council members, three area veterinarians and the former mayor. The Police Department has handled code enforcement for the city since January.
Although the residents present weren’t shy about speaking their minds, the mood wasn’t as volatile as it was at the standing-room-only Aug. 4 council meeting. Those present broached perceived needs and suggested solutions.
By the end of the meeting, most city officials and attending residents agreed they wanted an ordinance that dealt with vicious dogs, but not a breed-specific ordinance.
Mayor Kenneth Edwards opened the meeting by assuring attendees, “Nobody on the City Council cares how many dogs and cats you have or whether you have chickens in your yard.”
He said Greenwood Finance Director Dallas Melvin has said the city has but $7,000 left in its budget for animal control for the year — not enough money to pay the salary of an animal control ordinance or to equip that officer. Edwards advised council members to review the proposed ordinance draft with an eye to the city’s budget constraints.
Since the Aug. 4 meeting, Edwards said, a child was attacked by a German shepherd, but unlike the woman who was mauled by a pit bull the preceding week, the child was in the dog’s yard.
City Attorney Mike Hamby reviewed the three animal control ordinances already in place — a 2004 ordinance regulating domestic companion animals, another amending it to designate the Sebastian County Humane Society as the enforcement agency for that ordinance, and a 2005 ordinance regulating livestock, fowl and other non-domestic animals and nuisance animals within city limits.
Hamby said the city does not have an ordinance regulating exotic animals, such as lions and tigers.
Edwards said, “What we’re seeing is 60 to 70 percent of what’s in the proposed new ordinance is already in city ordinances.”
The existing ordinances probably need to be “cleaned up” some, he said, noting that the city no longer has a contract with the Sebastian County Humane Society.
“All we want to do is make responsible pet owners out of a few careless people,” Edwards said.
Financing that goal is the issue, he said. Edwards asked the veterinarians if the sale of dog tags and licenses would generate sufficient funds for animal control.
Matthew W. Singer of Greenwood Veterinary Clinic said in the mid-1990s, the city collected license fees, but it fizzled out after it contracted with the Humane Society for enforcement. Singer said he didn’t think the fees would generate enough money to pay an animal control officer’s salary.
Singer said rabies tags would solve the rabies safety issue for officers picking up at-large dogs, but the city’s problem would be with unidentified dogs. People often deny owning the dogs, he said.
Edwards said area vets have been handling that problem for the city, and the city needs to ease that burden for them.
A woman in the audience said a local grooming shop has also been tending to unclaimed animals.
Hamby said the city’s cost has been in feeding and euthanizing unclaimed animals.
Police Chief Keith Jackson said currently, the city pays the county $25 to pick up a dog and pays the Humane Society shelter $10 a day to house each dog.
Another woman touted Barling’s animal control ordinance as “pretty decent.” She said it defines and deals with dangerous dogs without specifying breed. She handed a copy of the ordinance to the mayor.
Several pit bull owners had objected to language that singled out the breed in proposed Greenwood drafts. They all spoke of the gentleness of their pets.
The husband of a woman mauled by a pit bull said although pit bulls represent a small percentage of the dog breeds, they represent a disproportionately higher percentage of the killing and maiming from dog attacks.
Another man said he was attacked four years ago by a pit bull that jumped his fence to attack his dog. He said he didn’t blame the breed; he blamed the owner.
A chorus of voices agreed with him.
Alderman Terral Meeker suggested drafting an ordinance dealing with vicious dogs, but making the consequences of an attack stiffer. The first time a dog attacks, it should be put down, Meeker suggested.
Another audience member suggested discounted fees for responsible pet owners.
Edwards noted that the Barling ordinance offered licensing fee discounts for neutered/spayed animals and gave senior citizens a discount.
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Bless the Bullys