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Tupelo pit bull ban unleashes reactions

9/26/2006 9:53:53 PM
Daily Journal

BY ANDY KANENGISER

Daily Journal

TUPELO - Dog owners, officials with the Humane Society and others are barking their opinions about Tupelo's proposed ban of pit bulls.

Mayor Ed Neelly and the City Council are getting an earful after last week's discussions about an ordinance to prohibit the dogs inside Tupelo's city limits.

Some callers to the Daily Journal vowed to start a petition drive to stop the ban, saying the city shouldn't single out pit bulls.

Others claim it's a case of "communism" growing at City Hall, with city leaders trying to force their beliefs down the throats of citizens. Recently, council members approved a public smoking ban in the city.

Some pit bull owners insist their dogs are not "bad news," as Mayor Ed Neelly said at City Hall. The issue will surface again at the council's meeting next week, although officials may consider banning other aggressive dogs, said Mike Bryan, Ward 6 councilman.

Council President Dick Hill, who supports a get-tough stand against pit bulls, said some of the complainers are upset about having their "rights" taken away.

Despite the criticism, Neelly, Hill and others on the council say they will press ahead and put the item on their study agenda. They say they also are hearing from people with steady complaints that pit bulls pose a safety threat to children and adults.

As they weigh possible changes, city leaders note concerns voiced in a Sept. 20 letter from the regional office of the Humane Society of the United States.

The Society "opposes legislation aimed at eradicating, or strictly regulating, dogs based solely on their breed," reads the letter from regional director Laura Bevan in the Tallahassee, Fla., office.

"Pit bull bans have just not worked," Bevan said by phone Friday. "It's easy to say let's get rid of pit bulls."

Tuesday, Tupelo-Lee County Humane Society was confining five pit bulls due to violations. Their owners "are breeding them to fight - they are in court cases right now," said Terry Harris, the agency's director. Most pit bulls there are not registered or were not properly confined, he said. Apparently no local records kept on pit bull attacks.

Of the 175 animals caged there, pit bulls are the only dangerous dogs at the facility on South Gloster Street. Harris said, "I support my mayor 100 percent" on banning pit bulls.

A Richland, Miss., ban on pit bulls went into effect June 1. Denver, Colo., has had a pit bull ban since the 1980s.

Bevan said other vicious dogs should be regulated, too. "Dangerous dogs are a huge issue," said Bevan, whose office oversees Mississippi, Alabama and five other Southern states.

Nationwide, more than 4.5 million dog bites occur each year. Out of the millions of bites, about 10-20 are fatal each year, Humane Society reports show.

Neelly has direct experience with the issue and it was painful. As a mayoral candidate in 2005, he was bit on his hand by a dog that broke its chain when he was campaigning. Although the dog wasn't a pit bull, the mayor said citizen complaints are driving his campaign for the ordinance, not his experience.

Contact Daily Journal City Hall reporter Andy Kanengiser at 678-1590 or [email protected] djournal. com

http://www.djournal .com/pages/ story.asp? ID=229308&pub=1&div=News
 
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