In light of all the negative news coming out of Arkansas in the last few weeks, I wanted to share a positive update on an issue I’ve been following for quite a while.
The Monticello, Arkansas city council has been reviewing their animal control ordinance for almost a year. 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. Even though the Humane Society officials claimed to know the dog owners responsible for the problems in the city, they wanted to enact a breed specific ordinance that penalized all owners of one particular type of dog – the good and the bad.
At that time, the council instructed the city attorney to research pit bull ordinances and prepare a draft for the city’s consideration. The city attorney presented his draft in February 2013, but the council was not in agreement on the language and instructed further research and revisions.
I have spoken at great length with the city clerk many times since this issue was brought up in December. She initially advised that the city council members were not interested in banning any specific breed of dogs and, as a result, the city attorney drafted an ordinance that would regulate the ownership of primarily pit bull-type dogs.
Despite this, there was a ray of hope. In researching breed specific ordinances, city staff discovered the many flaws associated with these types of laws – specifically with breed identification and legal challenges. Because of this, city staff drafted two ordinances for the council’s consideration – one that would regulate pit bulls and one that was breed neutral. While the ultimate decision on which ordinance the city should enact was up to the council, those drafting the ordinances strongly encouraged the council to go with the breed-neutral ordinance in light of all they learned.
Fortunately, the council was open to the information provided to them, and when both ordinances were presented in August, some council members began to take issue with an ordinance that contained any breed specific language at all.
In speaking with the clerk today, I discovered that the city is ready to move forward with the breed-neutral ordinance. The city decided to focus on irresponsible and reckless dog owners, as well as ways to implement education to curb the cycle of irresponsible dog ownership in the city.
The breed-neutral ordinance is expected to go to final vote in November.
As we all know, the media tends to lose interest in these issues once the breed specific provisions are eliminated from consideration, so while this turn of events may not make the news, the city deserves an ‘atta boy’ for the effort and forethought put into the drafting of an ordinance that will benefit the entire community.
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