02/16/05 — Dangerous dogs getting out of hand in Mount Olive

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Dangerous dogs getting out of hand in Mount Olive

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 16, 2005 2:08 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Town Manager Ray McDonald says he will ask the Mount Olive Town Board to toughen the town's dog ordinance, and he's warning the public that the current ordinance will be more strictly enforced.

McDonald said the town hasn't rigorously enforced its ordinance against dangerous dogs, but that the situation is "getting out of hand."

Some people whose neighbors have pit bulls staked in their yard have called Town Hall complaining about not feeling safe, he said. McDonald said he plans to bring the issue before the board at its March 7 meeting.

The ordinance as it is currently written forbids vicious dogs in the city limits. The ordinance describes a "vicious dog" as one that has bitten at least one person or has a "known propensity to attack human beings." The ordinance permits no more than three dogs to each household. They are not allowed to be staked, hitched or fastened outdoors. If they are, they can be seized or impounded. The ordinance also says dogs can't be running loose.

McDonald said he plans to make the board aware that the town will start enforcing the ordinance and give people the month of March to do something about dogs that pose a danger to others and to stop having their dogs chained or tied up outside.

If the dog owners don't comply, he said, the town will call Wayne County Animal Control officers to pick up the animals.

Mount Olive Police Chief Emmett Ballree said it bothers him to see a dog chained outside. "We've gotten calls in the past and had to round up a dog that was dragging his chain behind him," Ballree said.

The police are the ones who have to come into direct confrontation with the dog owners when there is a complaint, Ballree said, and the ordinance as written is difficult to enforce, because of the difficulty in identifying what exactly is a "vicious dog?"

Any dog will bit you if you make it angry enough, said Ballree. He said he understands the reasoning behind the description, but said his officers have had trouble enforcing the ordinance.

He said he hopes any changes in the law would make it clear, so that there is no room for guesswork on the officers' part. People can "get really defensive about their pets," he said. "We have to be on solid footing when we deal with people and their animals."

Mount Olive doesn't have an animal control officer. If the police have to pick up a dog, there is no there is no facility for it. And when they call Animal Control, "we have to wait our turn."

Mount Olive Planner Kenny Talton said he has heard some of the complaints.

"When you have to move out of town to have peace of mind for your family," said Talton, "that's when it becomes personal."

People love their pets, Talton said, and the owners might consider the description of "vicious" as unfair. But neighbors have the right to feel safe, he added.

Talton is proposing that dog owners confine their animals within a fence that is at least four-feet tall, rather than telling the owner to get rid of the dog. That's the only idea on the table so far, he said.

"If anybody has a good alternative," he said, "we want to put it on the table, too."