City facing issue with dog calls
With the number of loose dogs roaming the streets of Russellville, some residents are wondering what can be done.
Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett said the department had 144 dog-related complaints in 2007, and a dozen in January, but officers can do little to fight the problem
because the city does not have a leash ordinance in effect.
"Russellville has a nuisance and a vicious dog ordinance, but we don't have a leash ordinance," Hargett said.
According to the ordinance, it is unlawful for anyone in the city to keep any animals which may be or become a nuisance to any of the citizens or a menace to the health of the citizens.
The ordinance states that any person, firm or corporation violating this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished.
The ordinance also includes a section making it unlawful to allow a dog to bark, howl or yelp to the point where it becomes a problem for citizens who live nearby.
The section referring to a vicious dog says that any animal considered to be vicious must be kept securely confined to prevent the dog from biting or attacking a person or another animal.
Hargett said that a local resident was arrested last month because her dog allegedly killed a neighbor's cat.
"The owner of the dog was arrested and charged with violating the vicious dog ordinance, which is a misdemeanor charge," he said.
The state House of Representatives approved a pair of bills Tuesday that would allow authorities in Mobile County to declare dogs dangerous and impose criminal penalties on their owners.
A Mobile County man was mauled by two dogs in 2006, but the dogs were returned to their owner because there was no law regulating their behavior, according to the Associated Press.
The legislation allows animal control officers to impound dogs they consider dangerous and that have caused serious physical damage or personal harm to an individual.
The county district attorney could then petition the district court to have a dog declared "dangerous or a nuisance." If the court agrees and finds the dog has caused serious physical injury or death to a human being, the animal would be destroyed.
If the dog is judged dangerous or a nuisance without the harm to a person, the owner would still be required to take several steps to ensure the dog is properly restrained and easily identifiable, either by a special tattoo or a microchip. The owner would also have to take out a $100,000 insurance policy on the animal to cover any future medical or veterinary bills caused by the dog.
The owner would have to pay an additional annual fee to keep the dog registered. If a dog declared dangerous attacks another person without provocation, the animal would be put down and the owner would face up to two years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.
The bill now moves to the Senate.
Roy Price, with the Russellville street department, helps answer complaints about dogs running the streets in the city.
"I don't think we have a real big dog problem," he said. "I may go weeks and not pick up any dogs at all."
Price said his job is to take complaints about dogs roaming the city and to notify the owners if they are tagged, and get the strays without homes off the streets.
"When we pick up a dog, we keep it five to seven days before taking it to the vet to be put to sleep," Price said. "No animals are mistreated or killed by me. All animals are taken to the vet to be put to sleep."
If the dog has a tag, he returns them to the owners instead of taking them into custody.
Price said the department does get quite a few calls saying that there are pit bulls roaming the streets.
"We do a have problem with pit bulls on the streets because of the potential danger they pose to residents and other animals," Price said.
"But, we get a lot of calls about there being pit bulls on the streets and when I get out there, the dogs are not pit bulls."