On Tuesday, April 2, the Hornbeak, Tennessee board of aldermen approved the second and final reading of a vicious dog ordinance, amending the current municipal code by adding a section regarding vicious dogs.
Despite city officials’ prior admission that the problems the town is experiencing are not related to any one particular breed of dog, the new ordinance targets several specific breeds of dogs and outlines stringent requirements for keeping those breeds. According to the ordinance, it will be “unlawful to own or harbor any vicious dog” in Hornbeak unless the owner strictly complies with the standards and requirements being set. Owners are now required to register, muzzle, confine, post signage, obtain insurance, and supply photographs of their dogs to the city. The new ordinance defines and automatically labels as “vicious dogs” the following:
American pit bull terrier
American Staffordshire terrier
and Wolf hybrids
Before the vote was taken, Alderman Debi Jerden objected to the ordinance, stating she believed it was too strict. Ultimately, her concerns were not shared by the remaining aldermen, and the ordinance was approved by a vote of 5-1, with Ms. Jerden casting the lone dissenting vote.
Mayor Dozier also presented the council with an animal licensing ordinance for consideration in order to tackle what he referred to as a “big dog problem” in the city. The licensing ordinance sought the licensing of all of the town’s dogs and cats, and to establish a licensing fee schedule. The aldermen did not support the licensing proposal because, in their opinions, it would not solve the town’s dog problem, and they also cited enforcement costs. As a reminder, Hornbeak does not have an animal control officer or an animal shelter, and it strikes me as quite odd that issues related to enforcement were not a concern to the aldermen with respect to the vicious dog ordinance.
Several Hornbeak residents attended the council meeting and offered suggestions for the aldermen’s consideration. Hornbeak is a town of less than 500 people, and the attendance of a large number of residents indicates this issue was important to them. Unfortunately, those residents were not heard by the officials they elected. The Hornbeak city officials did an incredible disservice to those who put them in office by passing an ordinance that will create a hardship on responsible dog owners and will not create a safer community. The city has no way to enforce any animal control law, and as cited by the aldermen, DESPITE the passing of the breed specific law, they will still have dogs running at large.
The only way to tackle the issue is to focus on the individual dog owners who fail to follow the existing laws. The Hornbeak city officials squandered the opportunity to make real, positive change and improve the safety and welfare for all those in their community, and that’s truly shameful.