Hattiesburg adopts final amendments to animal ordinance

By HASKEL BURNS,

After several drafts, revisions and tweaks, Hattiesburg City Council members have passed a final round of amendments to the city’s animal control ordinance that was originally adopted in 1982.

The amendments, which tighten up restrictions and clarify several issues on the city’s animal codes, was passed by a 4-0 vote during last week’s council meeting. Ward 5 Councilman Nicholas Brown abstained from the vote.

Joe Paul, who serves as customer service coordinator for the city and proposed the amendments, added a few measures onto the books to further assure the healthy and humane treatment of domestic pets, as well as to enhance the safety of citizens and pets against threats of nuisance or harm from animals. The latest amendments clear up items such as when electric or visible fences can be used, as well as when animal control officers are allowed to enter private property.

“(They can do that only) when it’s for a cause, either personally observed or by a sworn statement,” Paul said. “We also made clear the distinction between somebody breeding commercially, and a single in-home hobby breeder who chooses to breed their personal pet.”

The new ordinance now makes it clearer that in-home private hobby breeding is allowable as long as the female being bred is managed humanely and responsibly; adds a provision that excludes service and law enforcement animals; and clarifies the appellate process for citizens who receive a citation from animal control. Some of the other amendments make it unlawful to leave a pet in an unattended vehicle, and set minimal space requirements for pets that are primarily kept out of doors.

The ordinance also sets the number of pets at any one household to six, whether that be just dogs or a mix of dogs and cats. The exception would be newly-born puppies under three months old.

Another change comes under Section 4-1, which says that a potentially dangerous dog – defined as any dog that has, without provocation, been found to menace or display aggressive behavior toward a person or other animal – may be impounded for observation. If it is determined that a potentially dangerous dog may be returned to its owner and neighborhood, the owner may be required to meet further directives, such as keeping the animal inside unless tended to by the owner.

The ordinance also places the animal control section of the city’s code under the jurisdiction of the Hattiesburg Police Department, and the city will contract annually with a licensed Hattiesburg animal shelter for the impoundment and care of animals seized by animal control. In addition, any monies collected as a result of fines will be used at the city’s designated animal shelter for the care and feeding of impounded animals.

“I’m excited that there was so much engagement in the process by the citizens of Hattiesburg, and that the ordinance was approved today,” Paul said. “Now we’ll go about the business of training those that are sworn to enforce it.”