Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shelby councilman suggests restricting pit bull ownership

By Rebecca Clark, The Star

Last week, a 5-year-old girl was attacked and killed by two pit bulls in Waxhaw and her grandmother was sent to the hospital with injuries. Now, Waxhaw is looking into ways to limit ownership of the dogs and Shelby City Councilman Joel Shores wants to prevent a similar incident from happening here.
“We always have to wait for someone to be killed at an intersection — then we get the stoplight. I don’t want to wait,” Shores said.
The city recently held its annual retreat and Shores said he brought the issue up at the meeting.
“I’m not advocating we go to the extreme, I just want to look at it as a council,” he said.
Last year, a city worker was attacked by one of the dogs while reading meters, Shores said.
“It seems like I’m hearing more and more about attacks with pit bulls. It just seems like over the years I’m seeing more of a trend that pit bulls are attacking people, pit bulls are killing people,” he said.
Shores said he is not against animal ownership, but does want to look into putting restrictions into place.
“I’m looking at it as more of a safety issue,” he said.
Restricting the breed is nothing new and several cities have already taken measures to limit ownership of the dogs.
Shores said he has been researching the issue and said some cities require muzzles when walking the dogs, keeping them in a certain-sized cage and even requiring an insurance policy in order to own the animals.
“I don’t know what council would look into, but I want us to take a hard look at it and see if it’s something we need to do,” he said.
Shores said he has asked the city attorney to look into ordinances that are constitutional.
“I don’t want to come in here with the heavy hand of government and regulate dogs, but I don’t want to sit by until something happens and people say, ‘Why didn’t you do anything?” he said.
Sam Lockridge, coordinator of health services, said he wants to make sure the ordinance is constitutional and feels the current ordinances already in place are enough.
Lockridge said Kings Mountain, Shelby, Boiling Springs and Grover all have leash laws. For other municipalities in unincorporated areas, there is also an animal control ordinance.
“If we have several complaints, than we can declare a dog to be a nuisance or dangerous and we can put a restraining order on that animal,” Lockridge said.
The animal must be kept on its owner’s property. He said this ensures problem animals are restrained.
Lockridge said there is also a state law which allows animal control officers to declare a dog to be a danger. Owners must build a pen to meet certain guidelines, microchip the animal and have $100,000 homeowner’s liability insurance.
“I feel like Cleveland County has done a real good job addressing dangerous animals,” Lockridge said.
He said he does not feel banning a particular breed is the answer.
He said people have been injured by livestock and have been injured by other dog breeds.
“It saddens you to hear a child lost their life with dogs, but you can try to do everything in the world but sometimes it just happens,” he said.
Lockridge advises owners to take responsibility for their pets and for people to be cautious around all animals.
“We love animals, but animals are animals and they’re unpredictable and people tend to lose their guard on that. You can never fully trust an animal,” Lockridge said.
He said laws can be created, but they don’t always prevent tragedies.
“You definitely have to put a certain amount of blame on the animal but put the full responsibility on the owner,” he said. “If you own an animal and know it can be aggressive, then you should take any measures possible to make sure that animal does not do any harm,” Lockridge said.

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