The Garland County Quorum Court will consider adopting an amendment to the county’s vicious dog law at its meeting in January 2013. A committee of “interested, knowledgeable people” helped develop a proposed amendment, and many of the changes were developed through the use of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s study titled “A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention” which discusses “responsibility by owners and how a community could come together and put together an ordinance for their community.”
JP Mary Bournival said enhancing public safety through a workable vicious dog ordinance was the committee’s foremost goal. She also stated that studies indicate that “ordinances that require good control of unrestricted free-roaming animals” are the best preventive measures to stop vicious dog attacks.
In addition, JP Bournival stated that all the research the committee read indicated that laws banning specific breeds of dogs are “ineffective.” She said that, in the wake of multiple pit bull attacks on humans in Hot Springs and Garland County in the past year, “the hurried, emotional response would have been to go in and just ban pit bulls.”
The proposed ordinance is not supported by all the county officials based on concerns over property rights. JP Mickey Gates argued that those living in the country have always let their dogs roam freely. Bournival admonished those opposed and pointed out that opponents fail to understand that their rights stop at the end of their property lines. She said just because people have always allowed dogs to roam freely on and off their property “doesn’t make it right.”
Bournival went on to say:
“As public officials, we can’t pick and choose what laws we like and don’t like and what ones we’re going to abide by because that just incites anarchy,” Bournival said. “The fact that he [Gates] has a passionate viewpoint – all power to him. That’s what having community discussions is all about – hearing all the different viewpoints.”
The issue has been tabled and will be taken up in January. If you are in or near Garland County, please make every effort to attend the upcoming meeting as a show of support for the research and efforts of the committee to draft an ordinance that is fair, and holds owners accountable for the actions of their dogs, regardless of breed. In addition, if you live in Garland County, let your elected officials know you appreciate the time and effort spent in drafting the ordinance.
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