Wesson approves new dangerous dog ordinance

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 23, 2007

WESSON – Town officials have passed an ordinance addressing theissue of dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs within the townlimits.

“These laws are not breed specific,” said Wesson Mayor AltonShaw. “We’re not saying you can’t have a certain kind of dog. Itjust delineates as far as what is dangerous.”

According to the ordinance, a “dangerous dog” is defined as anydog that causes injury to a person or domestic animal and poses athreat to domestic safety.

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“We’ve run into instances with dogs attacking other people’sdogs,” said Shaw. “And we had one instance recently where a pitbull went inside someone’s house unprovoked and attacked theircat.”

The town currently has a leash law that requires dogs to be in a”proper enclosure” or on a leash at all times. The dangerous dogordinance is in addition to the leash law.

“There are certain specifications as far as a pen or when youwalk them,” he said. “The fines for them getting loose are gettingstiffer.”

The first offense fine is $500, second offense $1,000 andofficials are finalizing the fine amount for the third offense.

“The third offense is actually the fourth time you’ve beenwarned,” said Shaw, adding there is usually a warning issued beforethe first offense.

A dog is labeled dangerous once investigated by the AnimalControl Authority, based upon the said criteria. The owner is thennotified by certified mail or hand delivery within five days of thecompletion of investigation.

“But if the dog has not shown violent behavior or is not yetbeen designated dangerous, a loose dog just violates the leashlaws,” said Shaw.

If an owner does not take strides to ensure the public is safefrom his or her animal once it has been designated dangerous, thedog will be impounded until the owner fulfills registration andhandling requirements laid out by the Board of Aldermen.

Law enforcement animals in the line of work are exempt from the”dangerous dog” designation.

The ordinance also makes allowances for dogs who attacktrespassers, dogs who are being tormented or who have, in the past,been tormented, and dogs who are protecting their owner or theirowner’s property from a crime.

Additionally, dogs responding to pain or injury or threat toitself or its offspring will not be declared dangerous dogs.

Owners are seen to be in offense of the ordinance if theirdangerous dogs are not registered or failure to properly leash thedog. The animal must be maintained exclusively on the owner’sproperty, and the owner must notify the Animal Control Authorityimmediately upon escape of a potentially dangerous dog.

Shaw said an owner can have the designation lifted from hisanimal by having the animal examined and approved by an animalbehaviorist.

“If they go through an animal behaviorist and they recommendthat the dog be removed from the list, it can be done,” saidShaw.