City hears second draft of animal ordinance

By HASKEL BURNS,

Following a good amount of resident feedback – and an alert issued by the American Kennel Club that Hattiesburg officials found misleading and false – Hattiesburg City Council members on Tuesday heard details regarding a second draft of updates to the city’s animal control ordinance.

The first draft of updates, which was designed to refresh the city’s original ordinance that was adopted in 1982, was presented in July by citizen service coordinator Joe Paul. After a second draft was made public last week, the AKC issued an alert that said the amendments would, among other things, “make all animal owners subject to unannounced inspections” and ban home-based breeding of even a single animal.

“We received an alert from one advocacy group (the AKC) on Friday raising all kinds of issues that were, at best, partially true,” Mayor Toby Barker said. “A lot were inaccurate; a lot was basically innuendo meant to inflame people.

“It would have been great if they had engaged us and just asked us questions from the beginning, and we could have tried to answer those concerns.”

The primary changes in the second draft are designed to give animal control officials a better opportunity to proactively deal with potentially dangerous or vicious dogs in the city. 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.

In response to the AKC’s claim that the second draft would outlaw the breeding of animals except on commercially-zoned properties, city officials drafted a response that states there is nothing in the ordinance that prohibits in-home breeding – although it does require commercial breeders to operate in appropriately-zoned locations. The AKC also called out the ordinance for only allowing six domestic animals per residence, but city officials said that provision has been in the ordinance since 1982 and can be found in other ordinances throughout Mississippi.

The AKC alert also alleged that the draft authorized entry onto private property by certain city employees under broad provisions that are “not limited to” the pursuit of an animal, but city said that statement is blatantly false and is not found in the proposed draft.

After hearing details of the second draft, council members voted to table the issue until a meeting in the near future, at which point a third draft will be presented. That draft most likely will include making it clearer that in-home private hobby breeding is allowable as long as the female being bred is managed humanely and responsibly; adding a provision that excludes service and law enforcement animals; and clarifying the appellate process for citizens who receive a citation from animal control.

“As the mayor stated, we continue to welcome input,” Paul told council members. “Above the din of many inflammatory reactions of the 11th-hour AKC alert that have come from outside our city – and outside our state – we are listening to our citizens who responded to us since the AKC bulletin.

“They have some good ideas that will help us strengthen this ordinance even more when it comes to you soon for approval.”

PREP SPORTS: