Monday, June 21, 2010

Animal ordinance gets bite

By Kathleen Baydala, Clarion-Ledger

Hinds County residents who own pit bulls, hybrid wolf dogs and exotic animals must obtain a permit from the Sheriff's Department and hold insurance under changes approved Monday to the animal control ordinance.
Hinds County supervisors voted 4-0 for the changes.
If the owner does not meet the requirements and the animal attacks someone or is deemed vicious, the owner will be penalized. Penalties range from a $1,000 fine and 60 days in jail for a first offense to a $3,000 fine and 120 days in jail for a third or subsequent offense.
The amended ordinance also bans tethering dogs for long periods and transporting them unrestrained in the back of open truck beds or trailers. Violators will face a $100 fine for a first offense to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail for a third or subsequent offense.
"The first couple of months may be hard on everybody, but they'll get it," said Maj. Teresa Gardner, head of animal control in Hinds County. "Our goal isn't to write tickets because then we'll end up going to court all the time. We just want people to follow the law and take care of their animals."
The amended ordinance will go into effect in July. Thirty percent of all animal ordinance fines will be set aside to pay for the upkeep of the county's animal control shelter on the penal farm campus.
The previous ordinance was less strict on ownership requirements and penalties, District 5 Supervisor George Smith said.
"I hope these penalties will be enforced and give some fear," he said.
Smith's district includes the town of Terry, where 5-year-old Anataisa Bingham was mauled and killed by a dog in February. The attack helped spur the changes to the ordinance.
No charges have been filed in the case. Sheriff's Department investigators say it is still under investigation. The case has stalled because DNA samples taken from a dog suspected of the attack did not prove it killed the girl, and law enforcement officials say the girl's family has not been cooperative with investigators.
Sheriff Malcolm McMillin said his department is working with the Hinds County district attorney's office to determine what to do next.
In March, two proposed pit bull bans in Jackson failed to pass the City Council after opposition from the city's animal control chief and several dog owners.
Smith said he encountered residents of his district who are supporters of pit bulls and oppose any restrictions.
"I tell them to check the record. They could be peaceful with this individual at this moment, but they're subject to attack at any given time," he said.
Hinds County's ordinance does not ban any breed.
Gardner said owners will receive warnings before being cited.
"Say we get a call that someone has 10 dogs tied out on their property. We'll go out and give them a copy of the ordinance and warn them about it. They'll have five to 10 days to take care of the problem, and then we'll go out and check on it. If they haven't corrected the problem, we'll take their dogs and fine them," she said.

Update June 22, 2010 10:13am - The following article is from WAPT:
 
Hinds Supes: Owners Of Vicious Animals To Be Held Accountable

Hinds County residents who own pit bulls, hybrid wolf dogs and exotic animals must obtain a permit from the sheriff's department and hold insurance under changes approved to the animal control ordinance.
The Hinds County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 Monday for the changes.Officials said changes to the animal ordinance were stirred by the Feb. 12 mauling death of 5-year-old Anataisa Bingham in Terry. She was playing in the snow when the dog attacked her. The Sheriff’s Department said that no charges have been filed against the dog’s owner and the case is still under investigation.“It's horrible to even think about a child losing their life as a result of a vicious animal,” said Hinds County Board of Supervisors President Robert Graham. “That's one of the things that prompted all of the supervisors to work fast and expeditiously. We want to make sure we send a very strong message as it relates to vicious animals, not just dogs.”
Under the new ordinance, animals that are declared vicious or dangerous cannot be kept in Hinds County. And any person convicted of a felony offense cannot own a vicious or dangerous animal.
If the owner does not meet the requirements and the animal attacks someone or is deemed vicious, the owner will be penalized. Penalties range from a $1,000 fine and 60 days in jail for a first offense to a $3,000 fine and 120 days in jail for a third or subsequent offense.The amended ordinance will go into effect in July.

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