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Starkville OKs new animal rules, considers bicycle helmet ordinance


Tim Pratt



The Starkville Board of Aldermen on Tuesday approved amendments to the city''s animal control ordinance aimed at improving living conditions for pets.  


One of the most prominent amendments limits the amount of time domesticated animals can be chained or tethered to a permanent fixture outdoors. Under the revised ordinance, animals such as dogs can only be bound to a permanent fixture for three hours over any given 24-hour time span. 


Another amendment requires pet owners to allow animals to have access to a shelter or climate-controlled area when the National Weather Service issues a cold, winter weather, or heat advisory for the city. The amendments passed unanimously.  


Several citizens voiced their opinions on the amendments during a public comment period.  


The father and son duo of Dennis and Patrik Nordin both spoke in favor of the ordinance amendments.  


"The best way to turn a nice dog into a mean dog is to tether the dog," Dennis Nordin said. "Dogs are not meant to be tethered. They''re free in nature and they should be free, period." 


"Tethered dogs are dangerous dogs," he added later.  


Ward 7 resident Alvin Turner, however, spoke out against the amendments because he believed it would lead to more dogs running wild in the streets, which, in turn, would create a dangerous situation for city residents.  


"If you try to please some, you make enemies with others," Turner said.  


But Patrik Nordin, who spoke immediately after Turner, said Turner''s interpretation is not correct because the city still has a leash law and it would be illegal to let dogs run free. Nordin urged aldermen to approve the amendments.  


"Let me just say that I''m in favor of the revisions for several reasons," Nordin said. "One is the public safety aspect because dogs that are tethered become more vicious and more prone to bite people. That''s proven. Animal behaviorists can tell you that. The second thing is that chaining a dog for his life is inhumane treatment. The third thing is this ordinance will improve our community''s image, not just regionally, but nationally and globally. This is something that if a company from Germany is looking to put their business in Starkville, this is something that will be good for Starkville." 


Craig Stewart, who lives in the Longmeadow subdivision, said he was neither for nor against the ordinance amendments, but felt it would be better for a dog to be tethered to a fixture outside than to be kept inside or in an enclosed space. Stewart also was concerned about enforcement of the ordinance because he felt the Starkville Police Department could spend its time on crime problems in the city instead of sitting officers outside pet owners'' residences for hours at a time. 


But Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas, who introduced the amendments, said the ordinance would be enforced by the city''s code enforcement officer, not the Police Department.  


"The enforcement ability is obviously there," Dumas said.  


Violators of the ordinance could receive a citation.  






Aldermen also are considering an ordinance which would require children under the age of 16 to wear helmets when riding bicycles and other alternative forms of transportation. The ordinance was proposed by Ron Cossman, a member of the city''s Healthiest Hometown Committee and Starkville In Motion. 


Cossman wants the city to pass the ordinance as part of the Healthiest Hometown competition, during which Starkville will be judged on a host of quality-of-life and health categories, but also as a way to keep children safe. According to Cossman, Starkville would be the first municipality in the state to pass a helmet ordinance.  


Aldermen scheduled a public hearing for its next meeting, set for March 16 at 5:30 p.m., to allow citizens to weigh in on the proposal.  


The ordinance would require persons 16 and younger to wear helmets while riding bicycles, in-line skates, roller skates, Segways, skateboards, unicycles, motorcycles and ATVs on public roads, public bicycle paths, public areas and other public rights-of-way in the city.  


Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver was concerned about the proposed ordinance and said he doesn''t want to see it applied to residential areas. Cossman, however, said most of the time children spend on their bikes is in residential areas.  


"That''s where they''re going to fall on the pavement," Cossman said.  


Carver and Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker also were concerned about the penalties for not abiding by the helmet ordinance.  


First-time offenders could face a fine of $15, though the offender would have the opportunity to purchase a helmet approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in lieu of paying the fine.  


The ordinance would not be enforced until six months after it is approved by aldermen. The six-month time frame will give residents a chance to purchase helmets and read up on the ordinance, Cossman said. 


The Healthiest Hometown Committee is seeking grants and other funds to help pay for helmets, which it plans to donate to city residents 16 and under through the Starkville School District, Cossman said. No city money would be needed, he said.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment Jim Sesser commented at 3/3/2010 2:58:00 PM:

In the great fat state of Mississippi any child seen outside playing should get a reward instead of having to conform to Nanny State logic that penalizes good behavior. Are Starkville's children suddenly suffering from a plague of head injuries? If this is such an important issue that the city must take parenting choices away from parents, why stop at helmets? Broken arms and skinned knees are a horrible tragedy so lets get those extremities protected too!


Article Comment pickle commented at 3/3/2010 4:02:00 PM:

Jim, to play the devil's advocate here, are you for or against laws that dictate that a child must be in a proper child car seat when they are passengers on public roads?


Article Comment JC commented at 3/4/2010 6:57:00 AM:

Anybody who lets their child ride an ATV on public roads, helmet or no, is already making a poor parenting choice. I see children behaving irresponsibly on these vehicles all the time, on public roads, no parent in sight. Kids think they're invincible.

Not that a helmet law makes much sense in that situation; a collision with a car, truck, SUV, or semi would render their child nothing but a stain on the pavement.


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