County dog ordinance being drafted

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 11, 2010

NATCHEZ — The attorney for the Adams County Board of Supervisors is drafting an ordinance that would provide guidelines for handling vicious dogs.

A committee composed of representatives from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society and the Adams County Board of Supervisors met March 4 to discuss how the new ordinance should work.

NACHS Board Member Nan Garrison, who attended the meeting, said there are three types of problem animals: nuisance, abused or maltreated and vicious.

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Problems involving nuisance dogs are usually handled as a civil case, if an owner can be located. A state statute, under which the humane society operates, allows for the seizure of an abused or maltreated animal.

But there is no state or county ordinance that grants authorities the power to seize vicious dogs, Garrison said.

Board of supervisors President Darryl Grennell said he hopes the new committee can change that.

“For many years the humane society has gone out to rural Adams County to help underfed and abused animals and to catch those that have been a nuisance,” Grennell said. “But (the sheriff’s office and the humane society) need an ordinance to help them deal with vicious dogs.”

Board attorney Bobby Cox said the ordinance is not being designed to infringe on the rights of dog owners but rather to enforce greater responsibility on the owner of a vicious dog.

“A person should be allowed to keep a vicious dog to guard his or her property,” Cox said. “The problem is when a dog with a propensity to viciousness does not stay on the property and can get at people jogging down the street or a little boy riding his bike.”

Cox said the envisioned procedure, which will be voted upon Monday at the board of supervisors’ meeting, begins with a personal complaint to the sheriff’s office. A deputy will respond and observe the dog, and if the dog is judged to pose an immediate threat, a humane society representative will be called out to capture the animal and impound it.

The dog’s owner will have to pay a fine to reclaim the dog. If the owner does not pay, the dog will be put up for adoption or euthanized at the humane society’s discretion.

If the dog has bitten a person more than once, the dog will face automatic euthanization, Cox said.

If deputies do not see the animal as an immediate threat, they will warn the owner and the next time the sheriff’s office receives a call about the dog, it will be seized.

“We don’t want to infringe on a dog owner’s rights — we know people love their dogs,” Cox said. “We just want to set guidelines to encourage responsibility.”

A draft of the ordinance will be sent to Sheriff Chuck Mayfield and Garrison for review.

Garrison said there has been a “gentleman’s agreement” between the county and the humane society for 20-plus years that the society will shelter maltreated or starving animals, and it will continue to honor that agreement for vicious dogs, which must be impounded.

Mayfield said the current procedure gives deputies the authority to go out and talk to both parties and try to find a compromise in regard to both nuisance and vicious dogs. If and agreement can’t be made, a deputy would refer the complainant to justice court, where a restraining order could be served.

Grennell said the ordinance will not cost the county any additional money to enforce.

Adams County appropriates approximately $20,000 every year to the humane society.

If the ordinance is passed by the board, it must be publicized in the newspaper for 30 days before it becomes effective.