On Tuesday, Sept. 3, a second draft of the update to the city’s Animal Control Ordinance will be on the Hattiesburg City Council agenda. This past Friday, the American Kennel Club issued a release regarding the update – and we wanted to take a few moments with you today to present a timeline for how we’ve gotten to this second draft and to also clarify points that were made in the AKC’s notice.
The scope of updating the city’s Animal Control Ordinance began in April when several individuals came to Citizens’ Forum to voice concerns ranging from neighborhood nuisance to violent animal attacks to ensuring the humane care and treatment of animals within Hattiesburg.
When we looked at the ordinance to see where these issues could be better addressed, we found that the ordinance itself had not been updated for nearly 40 years. Dr. Joe Paul, the citizen service coordinator for the City, was then tasked with researching animal ordinances across the country in cities comparable in size and scope, bringing community stakeholders and advocates to the table for additional feedback and to begin updating the ordinance from a holistic perspective.
In July, he presented the first draft of the ordinance update to the City Council members with the opportunity to:
- introduce the updates;
- give the community time to provide more feedback;
- allow the council members to weigh in and provide additional feedback;
This draft was placed on the City’s Web site, and two local media outlets ran stories on the effort to update the 1982 ordinance. After two more months of additional feedback and meetings with dozens of stakeholders, a second draft is what will be presented at the council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 3 for further council input.
Updating an ordinance or creating a new one takes a lot of time. We don’t take it lightly, and the feedback we strive to seek at every level of the process is invaluable to creating legislation. The goals of updating the 1982 ordinance were and are two-fold: 1) to further assure the healthy and humane treatment and care of domestic pets in Hattiesburg, and 2) to further enhance the safety of citizens and pets in the City of Hattiesburg against the threats of nuisance, potentially dangerous, dangerous or vicious domestic animals.
Not only has Dr. Paul reviewed national best practices and met with dozens of stakeholders, but the leadership of the Southern Pines Animal Shelter has also been very engaged and most helpful in this process. After much input, the second draft of the 1982 ordinance has been placed on the City Council agenda for further discussion on Tuesday.
In response to the agenda item being published, the American Kennel Club issued the alert below, which we find to be misleading, intentionally inflammatory and in some cases very false – and also not indicative of the process and steps we’ve taken to get where we are. Because of that, we wanted to take you line by line through the AKC’s alert and provide responses to each claim. You can find our responses in bold after each statement.
“An overreaching animal ordinance that, among other egregious provisions, would make all animal owners subject to unannounced inspections will be voted on by the Hattiesburg City Council on Tuesday, 9/3/19. Residents are urged to IMMEDIATELY contact city council members to politely state their concerns and ask that they vote NO on the ordinance. Please note, only one vote is required to enact this ordinance. If residents do not take action, this could be voted into law on Tuesday.
The proposed ordinance would:
Outlaw the breeding of animals except on commercially-zoned properties. Home-based breeding of even a single animal would be banned.
There is nothing in the ordinance that prohibits in-home breeding. The ordinance does require commercial breeders to operate in locations within the city zoned appropriately.
It would be unlawful regardless of location to “habitually breed a female pet (dog, cat, etc.) once a year or more often for the purpose of selling the offspring”. If breeding “once a year” is outlawed, then no locally-bred pets could be bred and sold in the city, regardless of zoning.
This provision will be amended in the next draft to state “more than once a year.”
Enact animal limits by limiting all residences to six domestic animals.
This is current law in the City of Hattiesburg. The limitation to six pets in residential areas has been in Hattiesburg’s City Ordinance since 1982 and is not a new provision. Further, the six pet limit can be found in animal control ordinances across the State of Mississippi and is enacted with consideration for the neighbors around the pet owner’s property.
Provide that ALL animals and ALL premises where animals are maintained are subject to inspection by the county health officer/employees and by an animal control warden at any reasonable hour. In an undefined “emergency”, animals and properties where animals are kept would be subject to inspection at any hour.
This is also the current law in the City of Hattiesburg. This is not a new element and has been in the ordinance since 1982, without protest or problem. Animal Control does not and will not enter the yard of a citizen without seeing a potential problem in the care of an animal or in response to a complaint about the same. Animal Control officers are authorized to enter private property in pursuit of a dangerous or vicious animal.
Authorize entry onto private property by certain city/county employees under broad provisions that are “not limited to” the pursuit of an animal.
This is false, and not found in the proposed enhancements of the animal control ordinance.
Further, any violation of the fifteen (15) provisions of Section 4-1 could result in confiscation of the animal.
This statement misleads the reader. Under Section 4-1 there are 15 provisions that are stated. Regarding the confiscation alluded to, Section 4-1 B. states that animal control or police MAY seize an animal and/or issue a citation.
An animal that urinates or defecates on private property other than that of the owner or on any public property would be declared a “nuisance animal” and would be subject to confiscation, even if the owner removed the feces.
This is both false and misleading. There is no provision in the ordinance that speaks to urination on public or private property. The ordinance does require pet owners to marshal feces left by their pets on public property or the property of others. This is a common progressive practice in cities across the nation.
An animal exercise area with an area of standing water or mud would be considered unlawful “unsanitary conditions”.
This is false and intentionally inflammatory. The ordinance simply states that pet owners must provide clean, potable water for pets and that creeks, ponds, etc. are not considered adequate as an only means of fresh potable water.
A “tether” would be required to be no less than 10 feet in length. This would criminalize the use of grooming nooses, veterinary restraints, etc.
The ordinance does require that tethers for dogs kept out of doors shall be at least 10 feet in length, and cannot be excessively heavy or restrictive. The ordinance does not in any way prohibit dog grooming or veterinary restraints.
An animal on its owner’s property, but outside of a “good, secure, and substantial fence” would not be under “restraint”.
Further, an animal outside of a fence that never left its owner’s property would be considered “running at large” and subject to confiscation.
A breeder who “cages” an animal would be defined as an “animal mill”. “Cage” is undefined.
This claim is intentionally misleading. The definition of an “ANIMAL MILL” has not changed from the 1982 Ordinance and states in the definition section of the ordinance: “Animal Mill. An individual or entity that keeps and/or breeds animals in conditions where animals are frequently caged for extended periods of time, do not receive adequate care, and/or are not kept in an environment conducive to the health and well-beings of the animals.”
The definition of “dangerous dog” requires that a dog shall be declared dangerous if it severely injures a domestic animal while away from the owner’s property. This provides no defense for an animal that reacts in self-defense to an attack by another animal or that defends its owner from a domestic animal.
This is false. The ordinance makes clear exceptions for animals who are provoked. The dangerous or vicious dog provisions are only applicable to unprovoked attacks, where the animal who causes harm is the unprovoked aggressor.
Invisible fences would be declared unacceptable unless used in conjunction with a structured enclosure.
A terrier or barn cat used for vermin control could be defined as “abused”. Further, the definition of “fighting animal/game animal” could include cats and dogs used for vermin control.
This is false and inflammatory. There is no language in the ordinance that would state or reasonably infer that cats and dogs martialing vermin would be considered a fighting/game animal.
It would be an animal abuse offense to use poison for vermin control.
This is false. The ordinance does state that it shall be unlawful to knowingly expose pets to any known poisonous substance, whether mixed with food or not, purposely intended to harm the pet.
Any entity, incorporated or otherwise, that shelters and cares for pets would be defined as an “animal shelter”. Any entity, incorporated or otherwise, that rescues, assists, and provides care for animals would be defined as a “humane society”.
In-home rescuers are not excluded in any way, and the City encourages the practice. Those in-home rescuers are limited to six pets if they reside in residential neighborhoods.
While we believe that feedback and public discourse are a healthy part of the policy-building process, we don’t believe that the AKC’s accusatory and outright false-at-times narrative is helpful.
We strive to be transparent, and we welcome constructive feedback that will continue to help us build better policies that benefit the residents of Hattiesburg.
We encourage citizens with questions and suggestions to send those to firstname.lastname@example.org or to send a message to the City’s Facebook page.