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August 3, 2010

Residents say dog ordinance unfair

Owners have to house pits in kennels, get permit, insurance

Justin Fritscher
[email protected] gannett.com

Amanda Ard said she loves her dog like a child, but new rules adopted by the county will make it hard for her to keep the pit bull.

"This is ridiculous," Ard said of Rankin's new regulations that require owners to keep pits in a kennel with a concrete floor as well as get permits and insurance. "I do feel like there should be some regulations, but this is entirely too strict."

The Mississippi 469 resident was told by the county's animal control authorities that she has two weeks to come into compliance. And if not, she will be issued citations.

"He's the best dog we have," Ard said of the 1 1/2-year-old pit bull that lives in her home. "I'm so shocked."

But the new regulations adopted by the county have been emulated by neighboring governments, including Flowood and Brandon, who both adopted similar rules in late July.

Brandon residents have about two months to obtain permits that require a special pen for the dogs and liability insurance, and Flowood residents have about one month. The county adopted its regulations in May.

"We don't want to wait until someone gets hurts," Brandon Alderwoman Yvonne Bianchi said.

The ordinance is not the first time Brandon leaders have addressed pit bulls. In 2006, aldermen banned them but later rescinded the ordinance after public pressure.

After seeing the dogs continue to roam city streets, they decided to add more restrictions.

"I have actually had people calling us and thanking us for finally doing what was right,"
Bianchi said. "There are people that walk all the time, but they were actually afraid (of the dogs) to get out and walk."

In order to obtain a permit in Brandon Flowood and the county, owners must have at least a 100-square-foot pen with a concrete floor and enclosed with at least a six-foot chain-link fence.

Additionally, the pen must have a roof. Owners also must have a liability insurance policy of at least $100,000.

Those in violation can be fined up to $1,000 and jailed for up to three months.

Both ordinances define a pit bull as any dog that displays a majority of traits of the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

No one spoke out against the ordiances at public hearings, but many dog owners say breed-specific bans are unfair.

Richland resident Chris Pena, owner and breeder of pit bulls, called the regulations "narrow minded." He said the best - and cheapest - option is to enforce leash laws. Pena said too many other model ordinances exist that don't target a particular breed.

Pena said it's expensive to enforce this new regulation because the cities will have to house dogs of violators - a burden for taxpayers, he said. He said owners, not the dogs, are to blame for the dogs' image.

"It's like a gun," Pena said. "A gun won't hurt you unless a person is being irresponsible. "
When Richland adopted its regulations in 2006, Pena was forced to move his dogs to Simpson County. He now has six, and it's worth the 60-mile daily trip to care for them, he said.

"They're like my kids," he said.

The ordinance's requirement for a concrete pad is bad for the dogs' health, Pena said, arguing that the hard surface is bad for dogs' joints and ligaments.

"Think about being barefoot on a concrete floor 24 hours a day," he said.

Ard also said obtaining insurance is costly, especially in this economic climate. For her pit bull, Ard's insurance company gave her a quote of $200 a month with a $400 down payment.

Board President Wood Brown said the feedback he has received has been positive.

"The majority of Rankin County would agree to what's safe for themselves and their kids," Brown said. "When you see two other cities adopt a policy you got, they are convinced what you did was right."

http://www.rankinle dger.com/ apps/pbcs. dll/article? AID=/20100803/ NEWS/8030304/ Residents- say-dog-ordinanc e-unfair

Jodi Preis
Bless the Bullys
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