Board approves vicious dog ordinance 12/3/13

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Board approves vicious dog ordinance

By Rupert Howell

A “Vicious Dog Ordinance,” recommended by Panola County Sheriff’s Department was approved unanimously Monday at a meeting of supervisors in Sardis.

Sheriff Dennis Darby asked supervisors at the end of Monday’s meeting if the board had made a decision on the ordinance brought before the board in an August meeting by Deputy Bobby Billingsley who serves as animal control officer for the sheriff’s department.

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Board President Kelly Morris told Darby that the board had discussed the matter, “. . . among ourselves. Some of them decided we didn’t need a law until we have a pound.”

Darby said, “We’re just talking about vicious dogs. We need to do something.”

Supervisors then voted unanimously to put the proposed law on the books.

“Just because someone has a pit bull fenced in the backyard and it is mean doesn’t mean it’s a vicious dog,” District Five Supervisors Cole Flint explained after the meeting.

The newly adopted ordinance defines a dangerous dog as one that causes injury to a person or domestic animals or has been designated as potentially dangerous and engages in behavior that poses a threat to public safety.

The new statute further explains that a “potentially dangerous dog” means a dog that may reasonably be assumed to pose a threat by chasing or menacing persons or domestic livestock without provocation in an aggressive manner or an animal running at large and impounded, or with owners cited two or more times within one year.

The sheriff’s animal control officer or his designee may now determine potentially dangerous dogs and owners would have an opportunity to file a petition within five days seeking review of the designation.

Owners of dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs could register their dogs after providing proof of proper enclosure, an annual fee of $50, rabies vaccination and proof of $100,000 homeowner’s liability policy, according to the ordinance when it was first proposed.

“You’d be shocked at how many (vicious dogs) there are. . .,” Billingsley told supervisors in August adding, “We’re not talking about a barking dog chasing a car.”

He explained then that state laws, “Are pretty antiquated to say the least,” and that he had researched 12 different ordinances to come up with the recommended one adopted Monday.
Billingsley noted that dog attacks on children and adults are on the rise and that he gets calls, “ . . . practically every day.”

The animal control officer along with the sheriff asked supervisors in August to consider the issue a threat to community safety and welfare and told of instances where vicious dogs had attacked children causing permanent scarring or worse.

Morris in August noted damage to livestock in several instances where vicious or feral dogs had attacked and/or killed livestock but was quick to note along with the animal control officer that the ordinance is not breed-specific.

Morris explained later to The Panolian that having a proper place to house vicious dogs was one of the problems. District Five Supervisor  Cole Flint has suggested that a county building on Wilson Road be used as an animal pound.