By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – Several reports of problems with dogs in the county generated discussion about the county’s vicious dog ordinance during Monday’s Board of Supervisor meeting.
The matter surfaced when Board President Cayce Washington provided details about a vicious dog that attacked and killed a neighbor’s pet and then attacked the pet’s owner after he went to the vicious dog’s house to confront the owner.
“The owner was obviously upset, he went over to the neighbor’s house, and knocked on the door,” Washington explained. When nobody answered the door, the pet’s owner was attacked as he was leaving the residence on his UTV, Washington continued.
“It sounds like the dog is a nuisance to that community, I wanted to make sure we are all up to speed with what is happening in our community with our dog ordinance,” Washington said.
District Three Supervisor Lee McMinn also cited another incident where a pack of dogs killed one donkey and maimed another donkey.
I know the sheriff’s department made several trips out, I made several trips out,” McMinn said about the incident.
McMinn said the owners of the animals ultimately reached a compromise.
“Once it became apparent the law was fixing to get involved and it was going to get serious, they worked something out. I think there was money exchanged for the loss and one of the suspects ended up in the bottom of dead dog creek,” McMinn explained.
The county’s vicious dog ordinance was adopted in late 2012 and is not breed specific. Instead, the ordinance regulates dogs deemed dangerous or potentially dangerous on a case-by-case basis in unincorporated areas of Yalobusha County.
When drafted, the intent of the ordinance was to place responsibility on the dog owner prior to an actual problem. If the dog meets specific criteria, the owner is required to pay $50 and keep the dog properly restrained. The sheriff’s department is also required to make an assessment on a potential problem dog following a complaint.
Details of the Incident
Chief Deputy Jerry Ferguson provided details of the event described by Washington. Ferguson said the dog blamed for the attack is currently secured in a pen.
“I did tell the victim that I would personally ride by there every morning and afternoon and if I catch him out we will do something different. Right now he is secured,” Ferguson said. He also said when the sheriff’s department receives a complaint, deputies will cite the dog owner if evidence is sufficient and make sure the dog is contained.
But Board Attorney John Crow explained that the ordinance requires the sheriff’s department to take additional steps once there is an attack from a dog.
Once there is a bite, it has to be registered,” Crow explained about the requirements in the ordinance that include paying an annual fee to the county. The dog also has to be vaccinated and properly contained, according the ordinance. The sheriff’s department is also required to impound the dog until the requirements in the ordinance have been satisfied.
Crow also said that even though the man who was attacked was on his neighbor’s property, the ordinance still applies.
“It is not a willful trespass to be on the property,” Crow added about the victim’s visit to the neighbor’s house when he was attacked.
“To my knowledge, we don’t know whether the dog has been vaccinated or not, I don’t know if it was registered or not,” Crow continued. “The ordinance says all of these things the owner is supposed to do once the determination is made that it is a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog. I don’t think any of these things have been done,” the attorney added.
Crow also said the sheriff’s department and county will be liable if the ordinance is not enforced and there is a tragedy from a dog attack.
Options For The Sheriff’s Department
“Is there anything you need from us to fully enforce that?” Washington asked Ferguson about the ordinance. “Do you need a place to house them?”
“We are going to need that,” Ferguson answered about an impoundment dog. “How do we get them?” the chief deputy also asked about catching vicious dogs, adding that lethal force is one of few options deputies currently have for vicious dogs.
“We have to understand the sheriff’s department is not really geared up for this,” McMinn added.
“I understand, but we have a law on the books,” Washington said.
The main thing is getting these dangerous dogs registered as dangerous dogs, then you have a leg to go on,” District Five Supervisor Gaylon Gray explained, referring to the requirements in the ordinance.
“I just want to make sure we have the tools in the chest to follow through on the ordinance, we have a law on the books we are not enforcing properly,” Wash-ington said in closing. “Really it is in y’alls hands, Jerry,” Washington added about the sheriff’s department.
Crow also said he would reach out to Second Chance Animal Alliance to see if they would house dogs impounded by the sheriff’s department.
“I can understand, you guys are not equipped and trained to go out there and put a noose around a dog’s head,” Crow added.
“I agree,” Washington added.