Memphis officials consider revamping pit bull ordinance - News - Voice News
By Barb Pert Templeton
Memphis officials are considering a new ordinance for Aggressive Animal Registration that would eliminate the current ordinance against all pit bulls in the city. (Submitted Photo)
View and purchase photos
There’s currently an ordinance in Memphis that prohibits pit bulls in the city; but officials have decided perhaps that’s being a bit prejudice to the breed, so they want to redo the law.
“With our pit bull ordinance I’m concerned that it focuses on a certain breed; I don’t like breed specific, and it doesn’t give enough requirements for people in general that have aggressive dogs,” said Mayor Daniel Weaver.
Right now, Ordinance No. 123 Chapter 110 – Animals, clearly states in section 9.63: The City Council of the city of Memphis finds that pit bull dogs pose an inherent threat to the public health, safety, and welfare; therefore declaring it’s unlawful for any person to keep, harbor, possess, walk on a leash or allow any pit bull dog at any time within the corporate limits of the city of Memphis.
Police Chief Jessica Beels said the ordinance is on the books for the city but she’s never really had any issues that required enforcing it.
“It’s been quite a few years since we’ve had a significant animal bite around here,” Beels said.
Although she noted that she was recently bitten by an energetic Pomeranian when answering a call, but was nipped on her work boot so no damage was done.
Making changes to the ordinance was formerly suggested by Weaver at an April 15 city council meeting where he presented a memo to officials outlining his views on the city’s current pit bull ordinance. In part he wrote: “The truth is, when a dog attacks a human being or another animal it is the dog owners, and not the dogs that need to be blamed. They are responsible for the dog’s behavior.
“I would like to see the pit bull ordinance changed into an ‘Aggressive Animal Registration’ ordinance. If a citizen has trained their dogs to guard the home, or if the dog has a propensity to use aggression toward strangers, it should be registered with the police and fire departments of the city of Memphis.”
Weaver went on to explain that he feels aggressive dogs can be any type so if someone has an animal that is protective of their family or has been used as a guard dog or maybe is a little scared and is aggressive towards strangers, they should have to come to the city offices and register that dog.
“This is so our fire department, our police department and DPW department know in case they have to come out to those properties,” Weaver said.
Vicious dog ordinance not enough
Mayor Pro Tem Larry Wilson pointed out that the city does have a vicious dog ordinance on the books, noting that pets must be muzzled and led by a leash.
Weaver said the problem with that ordinance is that “vicious dog” sounds like a dog that just attacks everything, but an aggressive dog can be friendly at one moment and attack mode the next.
“I would like to have somebody take a look at changing that pit bull ordinance to a more broad thing that instead of blaming a breed, blames an owner; people know when their dog is aggressive,” Weaver explained.
Wilson added, “I think pit bulls do have a propensity to be that way but I know one that isn’t a purebred pit bull, has pit bull in it, but it’s certainly far from being aggressive.”
Weaver said the city currently has about 15 pit bulls living in town, to which Wilson replied that the city ordinance specifically states that the breed is strictly prohibited.
“If you’re going to enforce it then you have to enforce it all or we should modify this to some degree,” Wilson said.
Weaver said there were other things to consider for the new ordinance. For example, he talked to the local veterinarian who said that if a dog has a propensity towards violence, getting them spayed or neutered will temper that behavior. Weaver said then maybe officials should consider writing that requirement into the ordinance.
“If someone comes in and complains that a dog is violent we need to make sure it’s spayed or neutered and we need to make sure the homeowner knows they are responsible for that dog, even if it’s in your driveway you have to have that dog on a leash so if someone jogs by it doesn’t race after them,” Weaver said.
Overall, the new ordinance will have to be about dogs that are a combination of aggressive and that have the ability to cause harm. Weaver said tiny dogs that are aggressive don’t need to be registered as part of the ordinance.
“We have to change the ordinance so the right dogs are being watched. We could have two neighbors, one with a pit bull sweet as can be but the other with an aggressive collie and by our laws we’d have to take the pit bull out of town,” Weaver said.
Members of the city council voted to send the issue to the city’s advisory committee for study and a recommendation. Council members William Zukas and Roberta Zukas were absent from the April 15 meeting.