Adams County officials explain new dog ordinance

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 24, 2010

NATCHEZ — Once the county dog ordinance goes into effect, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office will have a better tool for muzzling dangerous animals.

Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said the dog ordinance, which will go into effect after a legal advertisement runs for 30 days, was long overdue.

“For many years we would periodically get calls about problem dogs,” Grennell said. “When called, the sheriff’s office didn’t have much in terms of laws to help regulate those situations.

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“The ordinance gives (the sheriff’s office), along with (Natchez-Adams County) Humane Society, some authority to help residents who are faced with those issues.”

Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said what the law does for deputies is give them a set procedure to follow.

“We would only pick up a dog if it is displaying vicious tendencies,” Mayfield said. “If the deputy gets there and the animal is obviously aggressive, we would hold it until the hearing is set up for the owner.”

If you have a complaint about a vicious dog or animal, the first step is to call the sheriff’s office. If the dog is deemed to be dangerous, but not an immediate threat, the deputy who responds would have the citizen sign an affidavit.

Once the affidavit is signed, the humane society will capture the dog and impound it at the shelter.

If the animal is considered to be an immediate threat, it can be impounded without an affidavit.

A dog that is later determined to not be a threat can be reclaimed. Fees for reclaiming an impounded dog are $25 for the first offense and $50 for the second, plus the cost of boarding the animal.

If a need is determined in court, a dangerous animal can be euthanized at the owner’s expense. The owner is also responsible for the court costs and will be responsible for fines, if convicted.

The ordinance places additional responsibilities on the owner of a dangerous dog, including keeping the dog muzzled or caged when not securely enclosed on the owner’s property.

The first penalty for being convicted is up to $500. If the dog owner continues to be in violation of the ordinance, he or she can face jail time and up to $1,000 fine.

A domestic dog is considered dangerous if the dog attacks, threatens to attack or has a known tendency to attack people or another animal without being provoked.

A dog that is determined to be harbored for the intent of dog fighting is also considered dangerous.

A domestic dog is not dangerous if it inflicts injury on a person who is trespassing or being teased, abused or assaulted by a person or animal. The dog is also not dangerous if it is acting to protect a person from an unjustified attack. A police dog will also not be considered a dangerous dog.

Board attorney Bobby Cox said the ordinance also allows officials to pick up nuisance animals. If an animal is knocking over your garbage, you would start by filing a complaint with the sheriff’s office, and a deputy will warn the owner of the animal.

“Our function is to try and settle the issue without any law enforcement,” Mayfield said. “We would try to negotiate an agreement between the owner and the complainant.”

If the animal continues to make itself a nuisance, the humane society has the authority to trap the animal. The owner can reclaim it at $25 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses.

Natchez-Adams County Humane Society board member Nan Garrison said the ordinance was created to address dangerous or nuisance animals, not create a leash law for the county.

“It is okay for to own a large dog for your protection,” Garrison said. “The problem happens when your dog crosses over your property line.

“I can’t tell you how many calls I have had from people afraid who are afraid to go out in their yard or let their kids go outside and play.”

The humane society has been picking up stray, mistreated and malnourished animals for years, if alerted. But if a nuisance animal was owned, the sheriff’s office only had the authority to warn the owner.

The board of supervisors voted to accept the ordinance Monday, after reviewing revisions made to it by the humane society’s board of directors.