Dog Debates Continue to Dominate City Council Meetings
Man’s best friends sometimes can be the neighbors’ worst nightmare. According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association, 36.5% of American households own dogs, making canines the top pet of choice for U.S. families. But while they may be popular with owners, dogs are not always at the top of the public opinion poll when it comes to neighbors and other community members.
At the May Memphis City Council meeting, dogs again once took the spotlight. In addition to an ongoing effort to redefine the city’s regulation of vicious dogs, the council also answered to public complaints regarding barking dogs.
Jim McClintic addressed the council at the onset of the meeting, questioning what a resident is to do to silence a neighbor’s barking dogs.
Under Municipal Code 210.010, “Any animal that unreasonably annoys humans, endangers the life or health of other animals or persons, or substantially interferes with the rights of persons, other than its owner, to enjoyment of life or property” is termed a “public nuisance animal”.
The regulations list specific examples such as: repeatedly found at large; damages the property of anyone other than its owners; molests or intimidates pedestrians or passersby; chases vehicles; attacks other domestic animals; or “excessively makes disturbing noises including, but not limited to, continued barking, howling or other utterances causing unreasonable annoyance, disturbance or discomfort to neighbors or others in close proximity to the premises where the animal is kept or harbored”.
The ordinance goes on to state “It shall be unlawful for the owner or any person in the possession or control of a dog to fail to exercise the proper care and control of his/her animal so as to prevent such animal from becoming a public nuisance animal,” thus making a barking dog a crime if it is disturbing the neighbor’s peace.
Police Chief Bill Holland explained that officers do not patrol the city looking for barking dogs. Enforcement of the ordinance requires a signed complaint from the community member whose peace is being disturbed. Once a complaint is received, a ticket can be issued to the dog’s owner.
Currently the city does not have any regulations in place to address repeat offenders. Holland noted that additional tickets may be issued if necessary.
The council did review a proposed revised code section 210.010 to address public concerns regarding pit bulls.
The revision specifically defines pit bull dogs as: Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier or any mixed breed of dog which contains an element of its breeding of any of these breeds.
Under the current ordinance pit bulls are considered a vicious animal. Vicious dogs are prohibited within the city limits except when they are confined indoors, or in a securely enclosed and locked pen and kennel. The residence must display warning signs announcing the presence of a vicious dog and if the dog is allowed outside of the residence or the kennel, a leash and muzzle are required.
The new ordinance proposes that the vicious dog owner would have to maintain $100,000 in liability insurance on the animal, a stipulation found in most other municipal codes regulating such issues.
The code would also be adjusted to allow dog owners, whose canine has completed the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen training, to be decertified as a vicious animal, as long as the AKC CGC certification remains valid.
Copies of the proposed ordinance changes are available at city hall. The topic was tabled until the June 2nd council meeting to allow for public input on the proposed changes.