Thursday, February 3, 2011

Overrun with dogs, city seeks pound options

By Steven Thomas, The Neshoba Democrat

A new animal control facility is under consideration by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen to separate dangerous pit bulls from other impounded animals.

Mayor James A. Young told aldermen that a new housing facility for canines, particularly dangerous breeds like pit bulls, was needed.

"This process requires looking into different layouts for the animals," he said.

The need for a new facility was first discussed during a December meeting along with a need to update an ordinance which addresses pit bulls.

Police Chief Dickie Sistrunk said that even with more cages, the current facility on Rea Street would be filled in a day if all pit bulls in violation of the ordinance were impounded.

His sentiment was shared by animal control official Larry McKinney who said that if any more dogs were brought in to the current facility on Rea Street, he'd be "unsure about what to do" with them.

The current ordinance states that dangerous dogs, such as pit bulls, are not permitted to be outside of a proper enclosure unless they are muzzled and restrained by a leash. The owner must also make sure that a proper enclosure is set up for the dog along with proper vaccinations.

Anyone found in violation could be fined and have their dog impounded until the owner complies with the ordinance.

Alderman Cecil Nichols told city officials in December that there were many dogs in his Ward 4 which were not in compliance.

Alderman-at-Large Janice Payne and McKinney suggested that aldermen consider building a new facility with a reception area to house "pleasant" dogs with the goal of using it for animal adoption.

Payne suggested that the current animal control facility on Rea Street could still be used for housing more dangerous animals.

Chief Sistrunk warned that if any new facility were built, it needed to be properly categorized. He said that under current state law, an animal control facility labeled as a kennel had to be constructed out of concrete for cleaning and sanitation purposes.

An animal shelter, however, could be built like any other structure, Sistrunk said.

He also suggested that the city appoint an animal control officer who would be able to issue citations if he found any animal not in compliance with city ordinances.

"You appoint someone to issue out citations and if there are any other problems they can call us," he said.

Young said the issues in question needed to be addressed before the project moved forward.

Aldermen first heard suggestions for building a better facility specifically targeted at handling pit bulls in December. The suggestions ranged from just adding more kennels to special walled off cages so the dogs could not see each other.

Sistrunk told aldermen that if caged pit bulls even see another dog they would "kill themselves" trying to get at it.

Aldermen did not take any further action on the issue.

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