The city council in Monticello, Arkansas discussed a proposed change to its dangerous dog ordinance on Tuesday night. The proposal targets “pit bull-type” dogs. After much discussion, the ordinance failed to receive a second motion to bring it up for a vote, and no action was taken. The mayor asked that the council members review the proposed ordinance and come back next month and advise what they “don’t like” about it.
The council has been reviewing this matter for quite some time. In December 2012, the head of the Humane Society of Southeast Arkansas asked the Monticello city council to implement an ordinance that would ban or regulate pit bulls in the city limits. At that time, the council instructed the city attorney to research such ordinances and prepare a draft for the city’s consideration. Upon completion of the draft, the council would discuss the issue further.
In the video-taped recording of the December city council meeting, several issues should be noted:
1. Councilwoman Hudson stated she has long wanted to ban pit bulls, but she acknowledges the city does not have the resources to enforce such a law;
2. Councilwoman Sherry Gillespi brings up what she considers to be “vicious breeds,” including rottweilers and dobermans;
3. The problems apparently stem around a particular area in the city, and the Humane Society indicates they know exactly who the problem dog owners are;
4. Ms. Barton alleges there are 400-500 “pit bulls” in a city of less than 9,500 people;
5. Ms. Barton indicated the Humane Society, a non-profit organization, would hire and pay for someone to help enforce the breed specific law.
The Humane Society claims to know who the problem dog owners are and where they live. Despite this, instead of focusing their efforts on educating and strictly enforcing the current laws, they are advocating for a law that penalizes responsible dog owners for no other reason than the type of dog they own. In addition, the Humane Society, a non-profit organization, has offered to use their own funds to help enforce the law.
The ordinance presented to the council on Tuesday night contained two standards that would qualify a dog to be labeled a dangerous animal. The first is an earned status. This status is acquired with the dog’s conduct, and would require a decision by a district judge. The second standard would apply to all pit bull-type dogs.
Obviously, a strong, well enforced breed-neutral ordinance that defines vicious behavior and actions will work to maintain the safety and welfare of all members of the community. Irresponsible dog owners should be the target of the ordinance – not specific breeds of dogs.
I have spoken at great length with the city clerk many times since this issue was brought up in December. She advised that the city council members have no interest in banning any specific breed of dogs and, as a result, the city attorney was drafting an ordinance that would regulate the ownership of primarily pit bull-type dogs. In addition, in researching breed specific ordinances, city staff have discovered there are many flaws associated with these types of laws – specifically with breed identification – and have made this information available to the council members, as well. Fortunately, it now appears that some council members are taking issue with an ordinance that contains any breed specific language.
In speaking with city staff, and as noted in a previous posts on Monticello, I’ve learned that the city has a very real problem with irresponsible and negligent dog owners. Dogs being tethered by heavy logging chains that grow into their skin. Dogs being left with no food, no water and no shelter. Most of these dogs are “pit bulls.” Unfortunately, the humane society, who claims to know exactly where the problem owners are located, would rather have the council impose regulations on all pit bull owners in Monticello – the responsible, as well as those who are not – than work with these residents and educate them on responsible ownership practices.
I would strongly encourage members of area breed clubs, humane societies, animal rescue and welfare organizations to reach out to both the Monticello city council, as well as the Humane Society of Southeast Arkansas, and work with them on measures that would effectively solve the real problems in Monticello rather than punish all the responsible pit bull owners because of the actions of a few. It is naïve to think that by simply removing a specific breed from the community, without educating the irresponsible dog owners, that those very same dog owners won’t simply get another breed of dog, tether it with a logging chain, and leave it with no food, water or shelter. This is an opportunity to stop the cycle of irresponsible ownership and create positive change in Monticello for humans and dogs alike.
As is most often the case when a breed specific ordinance is proposed, Monticello doesn’t have a “pit bull” problem…they have an irresponsible and reckless dog owner problem. There is a very good chance a positive difference can be made in Monticello. I think the majority of the city officials realize that a breed specific ordinance is not a solution to their animal control problems. Please work with the city to educate dog owners and help alleviate the irresponsible dog ownership problem there.
Please send your polite, respectful and informative opposition to the proposed breed discriminatory ordinance to the Monticello city officials. Please remember in all your communications with city officials, you are representing responsible dog owners as a whole, and it is extremely important that you are professional at all times. Your voice matters, and how you use it matters. Your conduct can reflect either positively or negatively on all of us.
Talking points and alternatives to breed specific legislation can be found here, but frankly, city officials have already done the work. Encourage them to drop the breed-specific “second standard” of the current proposal and use one standard to judge ALL dogs, that being their behavior and actions.
This issue will be back before the council at their next meeting. 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.
City of Monticello
203 W Gaines St
Monticello, AR 71655
Phone: (870) 367-4400
Fax: (870) 367-4405