White Pine, Tennessee amends 26-year old ban on pit bulls

Disappointing (yet hopeful) news out of White Pine, Tennessee.

We learned in March 2014 that the small town of White Pine, Tennessee was considering repealing their long-standing ordinance banning the ownership of “pit bulls” in the city limits.

Unaware of the ban enacted in 1988, and after moving to White Pine with a dog that met the physical characteristics of a “pit bull” as defined by the city code, a dog owner was cited by police for violating the ordinance.  That resident brought the issue of repealing the breed specific law to the city council.  Public hearings were held on the matter, and the proposal was received positively.

When I spoke with the Town Recorder earlier this year, she advised that prior to the formal move by the council to review the ordinance, city officials were already aware of the problems associated with the existing ordinance, specifically the difficulty of identifying what is or is not a pit bull dog.

Despite this acknowledgment, however, the city opted not to repeal the breed specific language in the ordinance, but rather, to amend the ordinance to allow pit bull-type dogs to reside in the city limits if their owners adhere to specific restrictions.

Ordinance 2-14, §10-204 declares “any pit bull terrier” as a “vicious dog,” and under this section, defines a pit bull terrier as:

Any American Pit Bull Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog, or any mixed breed of dog which contains an element of its breeding the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier as to be identifiable as partially of the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier.

The new ordinance provides that “vicious dogs” must be confined in a locked pen or structure with a secure top and embedded no less than one foot in the ground; and leashed and muzzled while off the owner’s property.

In addition, owners of “vicious dogs” must post signage indicatting there is a vicious dog on the premises; and obtain and provide proof of liability insurance in the amount of $100,000 to the Town Recorder.

Even though the preamble of the amended ordinance states “certain behaviors of dog owners contribute to dangers associated with vicious dogs,” the city still chose to single out and penalize responsible dog owners simply because of the physical appearance of their dog.

That being said, while it wasn’t the change White Pine residents were seeking, they did succeed in bringing about positive change in the city, and I hope they view the amendment to the 26-year-old outright ban on pit bulls as an accomplishment, as well as an excellent starting point for a campaign to end to breed specific legislation for good in White Pine at some point in the future.

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