The Hot Springs Village Property Board held a public hearing on January 23 to discuss adopting as their own, Garland County’s animal control ordinance which targets “high risk breeds” that they sensationalize by referring to as “gripper breeds.”
The video for that almost two hour long meeting has been posted on the Property Board’s website. The meeting was attended by many residents and, as you can imagine, there were a wide range of opinions on the proposal.
What stands out to me the most is that the presenters seemed to have little knowledge of the ordinance, and were extremely resistant to any suggestions to deviate from the proposal to address issues specific to the Village.
The ordinance calls for measures to create more responsible dog owners on the whole which, of course, is something every animal control ordinance should have a strong focus on. However, the proposal targets “gripper breeds,” which the presenter defined as pit bulls and “two or three other weird breeds.” He advised that a dog is considered a pit bull if its composition is more than 50% of that breed.
Illustrating his lack of knowledge about the ordinance, the presenter stated if you have “Fluffy the pit bull” who is a “nice dog,” then the automatic designation of “high risk” would not apply. Garland County’s ordinance designates all “pit bulls” as high risk breeds.
There were questions from those in attendance with respect to how the ordinance was written and why the Village isn’t addressing specific problems relevant to them.
One gentleman brought up the fact that the dog that killed a resident, the incident that sparked calls to change the animal control ordinance, would not qualify as a “high risk” breed under this proposal. He asked if there was any push on the part of the Village to be more specific about what might qualify as a high risk breed or to expand the list of breeds considered to be a high risk.
The presenter’s answer to any question that called for a change or modification was simply, “That’s how its written,” obviously frustrating those trying to understand what exactly the Village is hoping to achieve.
Some residents brought up how unresponsive animal control was to their complaints now, and questioned whether a new, more cumbersome ordinance would simply frustrate that problem.
One gentleman stressed the need for dog owners to use their common sense to avoid incidents with their dogs and eluded to the fact that everyone knows dogs should be on a leash, even though the Village doesn’t require it. Another wanted “pit bulls” banned outright and pointed to Miami/Dade County and “Colorado” as examples.
The Board will review the proposal at their work session, tomorrow, February 5. According to the timetable set forth in the presentation, the Board will then vote to send the ordinance to the counties on February 19. Because Hot Springs Village is located in both Garland and Saline Counties, both have to give their approval.
Here’s the bottom line, the Board is moving forward with an ordinance that members of the very community its intended to protect feel does not address the problems of the Village, but does regulate breeds of dogs that don’t even reside in the Village.
Dangerous dogs, and the presence of dangerous situations involving dogs, are created by problem dog owners – people who are irresponsible, negligent, careless or simply lazy. They have no regard for their responsibility to their pets or their communities to be responsible. Ordinances that remove the focus from the dog owners who create problems, and instead place the blame squarely on dogs that bear an appearance to certain breeds, allows problem owners to continue to get away with their irresponsible actions.
Breed specific laws give communities a false sense of security. They reinforce the faulty notion that its the dog…not the dog owner, that’s at fault. Dog owners play THE key role in their dogs’ behavior, and they have (or should have) absolute control over the situations their dogs are placed in. Breed specific laws let these owners off the hook and, most importantly, don’t discourage them from acting in the same irresponsible manner in the future. These laws tell them, its ok, its not anything you did, carry on, don’t give it a second thought…
The dog responsible for the fatal attack in Hot Springs Village had a history of biting people. Despite this, it is documented that the dog was routinely allowed to roam freely in the community. The dog responsible for this attack would not have been targeted by this ordinance because it wouldn’t have been considered a “high risk” breed, and the women who owned the dog will likely get another, one that doesn’t fall under the label of “high risk,” and be just as careless with their duties and responsibilities.
And folks, it doesn’t matter what side of this ordinance you’re on, that just DOES NOT make sense.
Dogs don’t break the law, its just that simple. But when owners allow their dogs to cause problems, we can and should apply and strictly enforce laws on those responsible for creating the problems – not the dogs themselves.
No person should fear walking in their neighborhood or feel the need to carry a stun gun or stick to combat loose dogs, and creating a law that only targets breeds based on their appearance will ensure that people will continue to feel just as insecure, unsafe and afraid to walk in their own neighborhoods.
It doesn’t have to be this way. These situations ARE preventable – but ONLY if you hold dog owners accountable.
You can’t legislate common sense – you can’t make dog owners take the time to understand their dog and be aware of situations that might end badly, but you can sure as hell fine the crap out of people until they see the light and become responsible, or they no longer own a dog. You can make those people examples as to WHY dog owners need to act responsibly instead of focusing all the attention on the type or breed of dog involved in the situation.
Until that happens, we will not see a decrease in dog bites. Breed specific laws are ineffective and they do not promote safer communities. The type of dog involved in attacks is irrelevant, but the type of dog owner makes every difference in the world.
The elderly gentleman who spoke at the meeting is right…common sense is the solution, not irrational laws piled on top of ordinances already on the books that residents complain aren’t even being enforced now.
The Hot Springs Village Board is barking up the wrong tree, and its shameful their residents will pay the price for this “feel-good” measure.
Please send your polite, respectful and informative letters to the Hot Springs Village Board members listed below and ask them to reconsider adopting Garland County’s ordinance as their own. Please also provide them with viable alternatives and suggestions.
Talking points and alternatives to breed specific legislation can be found here.
To email the Board of Directors collectively, click here.
In the alternative, you can contact individual Board members via their respective e-mail addresses:
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