Leader Blues

Friday, June 15, 2007

TOP STORY >>Pit bulls are out starting Sunday

IN SHORT: As the ban starts in Jacksonville other cities such as Ward, Beebe and Cabot are also considering banning the breed. Pit bulls currently in Jacksonville will be allowed to remain if their owners have the dogs registered, neutered or spayed and microchipped for tracking purposes.

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s ban on pit bulls starts Sunday, and contrary to a so-called humorous column in another paper, animal control officers will not be shooting pit bulls and their owners with tranquilizer guns and dumping them in a compound in Gravel Ridge.

“You would be surprised at the number of upset callers we had after that article appeared,” said Linda Sakiewicz, with Jacksonville’s animal control department.

The department does have tranquilizer guns but only uses them as a last resort. The last time one was used was about a month ago on a runaway black lab mix that continually avoided capture.

All animal control officers are trained in the use of the guns.
The pit bull ban will give owners 30 days to properly register their pets and follow the other requirements of the ordinance or remove their dogs from the city.

As the ban goes into effect, Cabot, Beebe and Ward are looking into similar bans. Lonoke has also recently banned the breed.
In getting the city council to approve the ban at its May 17 meeting, Alderman Bob Stroud, who sponsored the ordinance, told the standing-room-only crowd, “Personally, I rather there not be another pit bull on this earth than to have a child maimed, hurt or attacked,” he said.

The ordinance bans all pit bulls, most bulldogs or any mixed breed that is predominantly pit bull.

The bull terrier breed was dropped from the ban and will still be allowed.
According to the ordinance, the only time a pit bull or bull dog may be brought into the city after the ordinance goes into effect is for the purpose of veterinary care, special-event dog shows sanctioned by the city or for use by law enforcement or military personnel as part of their duties.

Banned dogs already in the city will be allowed to stay if the owner can show proof that the animal was licensed prior to the new ordinance going into effect, has proof of rabies vaccination and the owner is at least 21 years old — and then has the dog spayed or neutered, registered and has a licensed veterinarian implant a computer chip into the animal for identification and to help track them.

Sakiewicz said close to 50 residents have already registered their pit bulls with the city. Registration can only be done in person at the animal shelter on Redmond Road.

She said that once the ordinance goes into effect and a pit bull is picked up because it is running loose, the owner will have 48 hours to verify that the dog was been spayed or neutered, shots are up to date and it has been micro chipped, then pay a $100 fine — and then the owner will still have to move the dog out of the city.

“We will not release the pit bull to the owner if we can’t verify that it will be taken out of the city,” she said.
Most of the pit bulls picked up that are not in compliance and claimed will be euthanized, according to animal control officials.

Sakiewicz emphasized that her officers will not be going into yards to check on pit bulls unless there is a complaint or the owner is not in compliance.

All pit bulls kept outside must be in a pen inside of a fence when the owner is not present. When an owner is walking a pit bull it must be on a proper leash and muzzled, according to the ordinance.

At their May council meeting, Beebe aldermen examined the Lonoke ordinance, the same one Cabot is considering, and decided they don’t want to grandfather the dogs already in the city.

They asked City Attorney Mark Derrick to prepare an ordinance for the June meeting that would give owners 60 days to get rid of the dogs.

Some wanted the ban in effect almost immediately, but Alderman Les Cossey said if the pit bull owners were renters, they would need at least 60 days to find new housing.

Leonard Fort, the city’s code-enforcement officer, said two families with pit bulls, one from Lonoke and one from Des Arc, have moved to Beebe within the past three weeks.

“We have an abundance of pit bulls,” Mayor Mike Robertson said about the need to pass some version of the Lonoke ordinance.

A pit bull ban in Cabot is necessary, said Cabot City Attorney Jim Taylor, because North Little Rock, Sherwood, Jacksonville and Lonoke have already banned the dogs, which means their owners are likely moving toward Cabot.

The pit bull ordinance would require registration of pit bulls already in the city and make it illegal to bring more in.
If walking outside, the dogs would have to be restrained with leashes no longer than four feet long.

They could not be chained to trees, for example, and they could not be outside unattended.

Puppies born inside the city to grandfathered females would have to be out of the city by the time they are six weeks old.
The police chief told the committee that no one has been seriously injured yet by a pit bull, but he said they are frequently tied at the front door of drug houses and it is only a matter of time before someone is hurt.