ETOWAH, TN: Recap of Town Hall meeting

Residents of Etowah, Tennessee organized a Town Hall meeting to discuss the pit bull ordinance that was passed on October 22.  A panel was put together that consisted of residents, pit bull rescue representatives, a representative from the Athens animal shelter, and Kathryn Simpson, a veterinarian and the co-author of a recently published article on breed identification in the JAVMA.

On Thursday night, we went into the meeting not knowing what to expect, or if city officials would even participate.   We left knowing that the city doesn’t currently have the resources or funds to enforce the new ordinance, nor have they allocated resources or funds once the ordinance goes into effect.  The city expressed a willingness to work with residents on the time period in which they can comply with the regulations.  It would be a huge step if ALL dog owners registered their dogs, a provision of the current law that isn’t being followed.  If you are a dog owner in Etowah, PLEASE register your dog with the city.

Residents are strongly encouraged to continue working with city officials.  Attend future city council meetings and ask them to repeal the ordinance they cannot enforce.

To the core group of individuals fighting this ordinance, stay strong and focused…this IS a fight you can win!

Citizens discuss dog ban

Author: Jennifer Cathey
News Editor

ETOWAH – Concerned residents, panelists and city officials came together on Thursday evening at the Etowah Community and Wellness Center to discuss Etowah’s Pit Bull ban.

Sherri Cooper, president of Stop the Ban, advised all those in attendance to keep their questions and answers polite and respectful to all speakers.

“This is an emotional issue,” she said.

Jodi Preis, founder of Bless the Bullys and a paralegal, was invited to speak about her research on the issue of breed-specific legislation.

“The ordinance wasn’t thought through,” she said.

Preis suggested looking at cities such as Calgary, Canada, which, she said, had laws that were designed for “owners and not the dogs.”

She added BSL enforcement can be difficult because it is not always possible to identify a Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix on sight alone.

“A law is only as good as its enforcement,\” Preis said.

Etowah Commissioner Burke Garwood attended the meeting and also offered thoughts about the ban. He said as soon as the ordinance began costing the city money, he would continue bringing it up before the Commission.

“I’m the one who asked how much this would cost,” he said.

Garwood, along with Commissioner Dennis Morgan, voted against the ban, which passed by a vote of 3-2.

Several in the audience said the ban was the result of “small town politics.\”

City Manager Matthew Gravley also answered questions from audience members about the ban. Most of those were centered on how the ban would be enforced, who is responsible for the enforcement and how long Pit Bull owners would have to comply with all the ban\’s requirements.

“It’s up to the people in the community who have a problem (to contact city officials),” Gravley said.

The city manager added that there has been some good come from the new requirements – the number of dogs inside the city limits being registered has increased. All dog owners who live inside the city are required to register their dogs no later than Dec. 1.

“We want all the dogs inside the city to be registered,” Cooper said.

Gravely said the city was still working to determine an adequate period of time to ensure that the city\’s current Pit Bull owners had time to comply with the new ordinance. Checklists with information about the ban were available at the town hall meeting.

Emilee Self, an Etowah resident, said she felt like her Pit Bull, Scout, was being punished.

“I love that dog to death,” she said. “I also love children, and I would never have anything that would hurt a child.”

“I feel safe with him,” she added.

Self questioned whether it’s fair to punish responsible dog owners for the breed they choose to own.

“It feels like I’m not being respected,” she said.

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