Adoption of vicious dogs prohibited

Friday, October 14, 2011

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Marshall County's animal control officer has been authorized to prevent the adoption of vicious dogs from the animal shelter owned by Lewisburg and operated by the city and county on Woodside Avenue.

A 78-year-old woman was bitten in Chapel Hill in the days before a meeting of the county commission's Animal Control Committee last week when the panel unanimously voted for the new policy that would lead to destruction of vicious dogs.

Photos of the woman's wound were displayed at the committee meeting and commissioners said the flesh torn from her arm was about three inches long.

"We cannot have a vicious dog being adopted out," County Animal Control Officer Jason Williams told the committee.

Commissioners discussed the various levels of responsibility that exist when a dog might be deemed vicious. Questions included whether the owner was responsible and whether another person involved in the situation has some responsibility.

"If I've got a vicious dog, they won't be taken in" to the shelter, Commissioner Richard Hill said.

"You," and similar people, Commissioner Nathan Johnson said, "are not the problem."

The dog bite case in Chapel Hill "was just a misdemeanor," Johnson said. "It should have been a felony."

Fines and the animal control officers' ability to write citations were discussed and the committee planned to consult with Sheriff Norman Dalton.

"Everything goes back to state law," Johnson said. "I think Norman will back you on this," the commissioner said to Williams.

Other communities have approached dog bite issues with proposals to ban certain breeds, a proposition that was found to be problematic in Shelbyville and elsewhere in other parts of the state.

"I look at a pit bull like a bomb," Hill said. "You know they're going to go off. You just don't know when."

The committee met on Oct. 6 after commissioners voted to appoint Lee Bowles as the county's next sessions court judge.

Tisha Poling is a board member of PAWS (Promoting Animal Welfare in the South) Now, a volunteer group examining the decision to determine what PAWS might do.

"This was brought to my attention on our Facebook page by fans who asked about it," Polling said Thursday. "We're working on that today."

She wants to know how officials would determine whether a dog is vicious.

Poling and/or her associates have contacted an attorney for advice.

"We need everything spelled out - know the decision, why it's in place, and if it's legal," she said.

PAWS Now includes members of another volunteer group, Lewisburg Animal Shelter Adoptions, LASA, including people who have been renovating the shelter and moving dogs from the shelter. LASA is just a Facebook page now to help coordinate fostering and transportation of lost dogs.