Wednesday, 20 June 2012 09:39
The meeting was preceded by a public hearing in which county citizens were allowed to voice their opinion of the ordinance. Chasity Hammontree felt that state laws would be sufficient to deal with dangerous animals in Jackson County. She also disagreed with the section of the ordinance that would allow courts to require owners of dangerous animals, or animals that pose a health hazard, to provide a proper enclosure for said animals. “I feel like confining a dog, chaining it further, is just going to make it more vicious,” she said.
In response, Sheriff Chuck Phillips voiced his issues with the problem, “Right now, if a dog bites you and it has had its rabies shots we can’t do anything with it. We can’t put it up, we can’t have it put up. If it does not have its rabies shot we can have it put up for a couple of days.”
Ellen O’Connor spoke in disfavor of the ordinance as well, calling it “another chance to impose home rule and Agenda 21 control over our lives.”
James Stewart also associated the ordinance with Agenda 21, which is a plan of the United Nations that is aimed at sustainable development at all levels of government. He went on to say “We have state laws that govern this ordinance; everything that’s in this ordinance is in the state laws. It’s nothing more than a sham to get more money into the coffers of the county, everybody knows that.”
In addressing several citizens concerns that the state of Alabama already has laws in place to regulate vicious animals, the Sheriff said, “Our hands are tied a lot of times when we go out there on these calls and the people expect the Sheriff’s Office to do something when they get there. If ya’ll can show me a state law that we can use to get an animal off private property we’ll use it, I’ll be glad to. But I don’t know of one.”
The Code of Alabama does say, “When any person owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and, as a result of his careless management of the same or his allowing the same to go at liberty, and another person, without fault on his part, is injured thereby, such owner or keeper shall be liable in damages for such injury.” That, however, does not give the Sheriff’s Office power to impound such a dog or animal; it only gives a private citizen the right to file a civil lawsuit against the animal’s owner.
There were also citizens at the public hearing who spoke in favor of passing an ordinance that would allow county law enforcement more authority in dealing with vicious or dangerous animals. Sharron Thomas spoke on behalf of her friend, who has long been dealing with a neighbor who owns 50 or more cats which encroach and defecate upon her property. Thomas said she had contacted the health department, the county commission, animal control and the state. “It all falls back to the county commission,” she said, “out in the country you have no ordinance, that’s your responsibility, I think, to help.”
Steve Fisher also spoke in favor of the ordinance. “Unfortunately there are far too many unrestrained and dangerous dogs in Jackson County. Many of these animals roam public roadways and public hunting areas in packs of three or five or more,” he said. Mr. Fisher himself has been attacked by aggressive dogs twice, once he climbed into a tree for safety, and on the second occasion he sustained severe injuries to his ankle. “I realize that the proposed animal ordinance that you are currently considering cannot and will not mandate that all dogs in the county be restrained and kept on the owner’s property. I hope, however, that your ordinance will require the control and restraint of any and all vicious or overly aggressive dogs and will provide a means for folks who have problems with these kinds of animals to report their experience in a manner that will require follow up by the appropriate county officials or law enforcement officers,” Fisher said.
When the motion to approve the ordinance came up on the agenda, Chairman Sadie Bias handed the gavel over to Commissioner Jack Allen who asked for the motion several times. No commissioner made the motion and without any discussion the ordinance was declared dead.
The lack of action came as a shock to Sheriff Phillips who said, “I was surprised that, at the least, they did not even bring it up for a vote. My hands are tied. We are not able to help a lot of people who have problems with animals. What it boils down to is that people who have problems with their neighbor’s pets will have to file a law suit against them to get any results.”
He said that his main concern is being able to lawfully deal with dangerous or vicious animals throughout the county and that he plans to discuss the issue with the next commission when they are elected into office.
Other business of the meeting included appointing Commissioner Jack Allen to the Jackson County EDA Board, replacing the oven and tilt skillet at the Jackson County Jail and re-appointing John Kellenburger to the DHR board.
At the end of the meeting, County Engineer Philip Widner said that work would likely begin on County Road 17 on the week of June 18. He asked that drivers please be patient, cautious and courteous of workers during that time.
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