As the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait…
We’ve been following the progress of a proposed breed specific dangerous dog ordinance in Monticello, Arkansas since December of 2012, and as we’ve posted updates over the last year, the progress on the ordinance grew more positive, culminating in today’s news that the city has passed a breed-neutral ordinance.
As noted above, the Monticello city council and staff have been reviewing their animal control ordinance for over 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. The Humane Society officials requested this sweeping discriminatory ordinance despite their claims that they knew which dog owners were responsible for the problems the city was experiencing.
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.
Over the course of the year, I spoke at great length with the city clerk many times about the status of the proposal. She initially advised that the city council members were not interested in banning any specific breed of dogs, BUT they asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would regulate the ownership of pit bull-type dogs.
In the spring of 2013, a ray of hope presented itself. 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, the city attorney, working with 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 2013, some council members began to take issue with an ordinance that contained any breed specific language at all.
When I spoke with the clerk in October 2013, she advised that the city was ready to move forward with the breed-neutral ordinance. Officials 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. She anticipated the ordinance would go to a final vote in November.
A little off the anticipated schedule, but an ordinance that regulates and sets standards for humane treatment of animals, as well as a dangerous and vicious dog ordinance that deems dogs dangerous based on behavior, not breed, was passed at the city council meeting this week.
The ordinance goes into effect immediately.
The Monticello city officials certainly deserve a pat on the back for the extensive research they conducted and their ability to focus on the true root of the animal control issues in the city – irresponsible and negligent dog owners – despite prodding from the local Humane Society to pass an sweeping ordinance that would have ensnared well behaved, innocent dogs and their responsible owners.
Congratulations on a job well done, Monticello!
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