In response to problems stemming from irresponsible dog ownership, the city of Hornbeak, Tennessee has proposed, and passed the first reading of, an ordinance that would automatically declare several breeds of dogs as “vicious.” According to the proposed ordinance (a copy of which can be found below), owners of these dogs would be required to register, muzzle, confine, post signage, obtain insurance, and supply photographs of their dogs to the city.
While city officials admit the problems aren’t related to any one particular breed of dog, the proposed ordinance singles out and declares “vicious” the following breeds:
American pit bul terrier
American staffordshire terrier
Hornbeak is a small town of less than 500 people. However, the city very recently annexed, increasing the potential for this proposal to affect many more families.
In speaking with the city clerk, I learned that Hornbeak has a very real problem with irresponsible and negligent dog owners, and the problems are not exclusive to the owners of any specific breeds of dogs. Too many dogs are running free in the city presenting a threat to the community. In many instances, city officials know the particular dog owners who are creating these problems.
In addition, Hornbeak has no animal control, nor does it have a place to house dogs that would be seized in relation to any violations of this ordinance. The police are charged with enforcing the existing animal control ordinance.
The proposal is considered by city officials as a first step to addressing the dog issues in Hornbeak, but as we all know, breed specific laws not only increase the existing problems related to animal control, these ordinances create new problems.
I would strongly encourage members of area breed clubs, humane societies, animal rescue and welfare organizations to reach out to Hornbeak city officials and work with them on measures that would effectively solve the real problems in Hornbeak rather than punish all the responsible pit bull owners because of the actions of a few. It is unrealistic to think that by requiring owners of specific breeds to comply with burdensome regulations that will create a hardship on responsible dog owners, without educating the irresponsible dog owners, that those very same dog owners won’t simply get another breed of dog, and be just as irresponsible. This is an opportunity to stop the cycle of irresponsible ownership and create positive change in Hornbeak for humans and dogs alike.
Please send your polite, respectful and informative opposition to the proposed ordinance to the Hornbeak city officials. The aldermen would also benefit from points found in the NAIA publication, “A Guide to Constructing Successful, Pet Friendly ordinances.” The guide has some excellent points that would help lay the groundwork for an ordinance that will address the problems experienced in Hornbeak.
Talking points and alternatives to breed specific legislation can be found here.
This issue will be back before the council at their next meeting on Tuesday, April 2, 2013. Contact information for the individual city officials is not available, but you may direct your correspondence to the city clerk via e-mail or fax, with a polite request to forward on to each official.
Town of Hornbeak
P. O. Box 265
Hornbeak, TN 38232
Phone: (731) 538-9626
Fax: (731) 538-9626**
**The fax number is the same as the phone number.