Oktibbeha to schedule public hearing for vicious animal ordinance

 

David Miller

 

 

STARKVILLE -- In anticipation of public pressure to adopt a vicious animal ordinance, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors plans to schedule public hearings about the issue at Tuesday''s meeting.  

 

Following a pit bull attack on two children on Self Creek Road on Aug. 13, the board has studied ordinances in Pontotoc and Lowndes counties. Board President Marvell Howard anticipated having preliminary framework for an ordinance to present to concerned citizens at Tuesday''s meeting, but County Attorney Jack Brown and County Prosecutor Roy E. Carpenter are still ironing out the legal framework, District 1 Supervisor Carl Clardy said.  

 

"We''re going to have something shortly," Clardy said. "Until we do, we''re going to listen to what citizens have to say and hope they understand we have a plan coming together." 

 

County Administrator Don Posey said there isn''t a special hearing to discuss a possible ordinance for Tuesday''s meeting, though citizens can express concerns during the usual public comments portion of the meeting.  

 

District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said the ordinance will help the Oktibbeha County Sheriff''s Office enforce things like vaccinating dogs and making sure they''re properly tagged and collared.  

 

"We want to be able to hold people responsible in regards to their animal," Trainer said. 

 

With no ordinance currently in place, a dog is not considered vicious unless it''s already bitten a person.  

 

Under a vicious animal ordinance, the OCSO would be able to investigate complaints of animals being a nuisance and have more options to help prevent an attack, Trainer said. 

 

The board won''t adopt a leash law or force residents to keep dogs in pens. However, it''s unclear what kind of fine structure will be set or what factors will determine if a dog can be euthanized before it attacks someone. 

 

The pit bull attack on Aug. 13 sent the sons of Katie and Robertsen Riehle, ages 4 and 10, to OCH Regional Medical Center. The older son was later transported to University Medical Center in Jackson to treat multiple cuts to his face and neck.  

 

The OSCO arrested three people in connection with the attacks on Aug. 13. The owners of the dogs were charged with two counts of aggravated assault.  

 

The OCSO needed specific testimony about how the dogs got loose from the oldest son before issuing the arrest warrant for the three owners.  

 

The pit bull attack was the second this year after retired Army Col. Herbert Turner was attacked on Sixteenth Section Road in January. Although Herbert''s wound didn''t require a hospital visit, he urged the board to adopt an ordinance in early February.  

 

Last summer, five cows were mauled to death by pit bulls off Oktoc Road. Each pit bull attack since that time has happened in a different county district. 

 

One issue that must be resolved is if the county will employ an animal control officer and how it will pay for the extra salary and equipment. Supervisors have estimated in the past that adding an animal control officer will add an additional $100,000 to the budget. 

 

"If that''s what it takes, it''s the nature of the beast," Trainer said.  

 

A less expensive option could be partnering with the city of Starkville to provide assistance, but if that topic isn''t broached Trainer said the board will apply for grants to help fund a new officer, training and equipment.  

 

Currently, Oktibbeha County residents have a waste water ordinance and a road acceptance ordinance.  

 

Trainer said the board has been hesitant to adopt ordinances in the past, and opinions on a vicious animal ordinance have varied based on the calls he''s received.

 

 

 

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