Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

TOP STORY >>Pit bulls squeezed out

Leader staff writers

As Jacksonville’s ban on pit bulls gets ready to go into effect in 11 days—June 17—Sherwood is seeing more of the dogs and that city has had them banned since 1987.

At the time of the ban, Sherwood had a number of bad incidents involving the breed, according to Robin Breaux of Sherwood Animal Control.

“We’ve seen more pit bulls in the past few weeks than we have in years,” said Breaux. She doesn’t think it ties in with Jacksonville’s ban. “It’s just a coincidence,” she said.

The Beebe City Council, during a special meeting Tuesday, decided to ban pit bulls, too, knowing that Sherwood, Lonoke and Jacksonville have already banned them and that Cabot is headed in that direction.

Council members briefly 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 are renters, they will 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.

Alderman Janice Petray agreed. “They’re everywhere,” she said. Petray also agreed with Cossey that a 60-day grace period was long enough. “I think 60 days is good,” she said. “By the end of the summer, it will all be over with.”

Meanwhile, Linda Sakiewicz and her crew at Jacksonville animal control have been fielding numerous calls about the new ordinance and what pit bull owners must do to keep their pets. “We’ve already had about a dozen owners register their dogs,” she said.

Breaux and other Sherwood animal control officers recently captured a pair of large pit bulls at the edge of the woods off Warden Road.

“It was a male and a female. The female was the most vicious pit bull I’ve seen in my 11 or 12 years here,” Breaux said.
Jacksonville aldermen voted unanimously May 17 to ban pit bulls from the city. Jacksonville’s actions follow Lonoke, which banned the breed earlier in May.

Alderman Bob Stroud, who sponsored the ban, told the standing-room-only crowd at the May council meeting, “Personally, I’d rather there not be another pit bull on this earth than to have a child maimed, hurt or attacked.”

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

Pit bulls in the city when the ban goes into effect will be allowed to stay if the owner can show proof that the animal was licensed prior to the new ordinance, has proof of rabies vaccination and the owner is at least 21. The dog will also have to be spayed or neutered, registered and have a licensed veterinarian implant a computer chip into the animal for identification and tracking purposes.

Breaux said most of the pit bulls picked up by Sherwood animal control are found running loose. “Occasionally we get one from a new resident who was unaware of our ban,” she said. Most of the time the pit bulls are euthanized.

“We have no choice. We can’t take the risk of the dog attacking a person or another animal,” she said. Sometimes the pit bulls brought in are super friendly. “If we truly believe it is a friendly dog, we’ll contact a pit bull rescue group and try to get them to place the dog. The rescue group always makes sure the dogs go to good homes and are well taken care of.”