Halls holds first reading of vicious dog ordinance
Residents of Halls who own dogs that may be considered vicious will have a new set of rules to follow if members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen complete the second reading of the town's new vicious dog ordinance.
The ordinance, which passed its first reading at last week's regular board meeting, defines 'vicious' as any dog that attacks or bites without provocation, has the tendency to attack unprovoked or is capable of inflicting serious physical harm or death due to its size or physical nature.
The ordinance also applies to any pit bull terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Doberman Pinscher or Rottweiler, or any mixed breed which contains these breeds in an identifying measure.
The ordinance also names dogs owned, harbored or trained in any way for dog fighting.
Upon the passing of the ordinance, Halls residents who already own dogs that fall into the 'vicious dog' category will have 30 days to obtain a permit from the City Recorder and must follow strict guidelines for confinement, transport and insurance for the animal.
The ordinance also requires:
-- Dogs to be confined in a securely enclosed and locked pen upon the owner's premises that has a secured top, sides and bottom or sides embedded into the ground to at least a depth of one foot. The pen must be adequately lit and kept in clean and sanitary condition.
-- Exceptions to confinement will be allowed by the ordinance only to transport the animal to or from a state-licensed veterinary office, a state-licensed kennel or to the location of a purchaser of the dog. During transport, the dog must be muzzled and restrained by a chain or leash and under the physical restraint of an adult person whose weight is equal to or greater than the dog. The dog will not be allowed on city-owned property, except for the roads when being transported to the three approved locations listed above.
-- Owners to display signs on the premises in a prominent place indicating a vicious animal resides on the premises. A similar sign must be posted on the pen or kennel of the animal.
-- When applying for the permit, the owner of the animal must show proof of public liability insurance in the minimum amount of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per occurrence for any personal injuries inflicted by the vicious dog.
At the meeting, aldermen debated the penalties in the current ordinance and amended them when alderman James Tyus announced that the existing penalty "did not have enough 'bite' to it."
The ordinance, which allowed a fine of not more than $50 and not less than $2 per day that the owner is in violation, was amended to read "not less than $50."
"Aren't you tying the judge's hands?" alderman Randy Harris asked.
"The motivation of this is not for the town to make money," said Halls Mayor Trent McManus. "This is an ordinance to keep something from happening. In my personal experience of being in the courtroom, dog owners will give you every excuse in the book about why their dog got out or how come the dog did what it did. But when they have to pay that fine, that problem mysteriously goes away. You come to court and hear, 'my dog broke its leash.' But when people pay $130, mysteriously, they get a collar that doesn't break."
Permits for vicious dogs may be revoked by the City Recorder or the Code Enforcement Officer for failure to comply with any requirement of the ordinance. Revocation notices will be made in writing and served upon the owner by certified mail or hand delivery.
The dog owner shall have the right to appeal the revocation of the permit to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen by delivering a written notice of appeal to the City Recorder within five days of receipt of the revocation.
Other penalties include seizure and destruction of unconfined dogs or animals that are otherwise in violation of the ordinance.
The first reading of the vicious dog ordinance passed unanimously. A public hearing and second reading are set for the next board meeting on Oct. 1.