Maumelle: Council repeals ‘ban breed’

 By Chad Gardner

After nearly three months, the Maumelle City Council on Monday night had its final reading on Ordinance 1022, which would repeal the ban on certain dog breeds and also strengthen the animal services code.

A motion was made to table the ordinance and send it to a referendum, but it failed 3-5. This was the third attempt at tabling and the Council also discussed splitting the ordinance into different pieces, an idea proposed by Council Member Doug Shinn, but he ultimately decided he didn’t want to continue the debate any longer and didn’t offer an alternative version.

Shinn wrote this letter and posted it to his Facebook page to explain his thought process:

To my fellow representatives of the city of Maumelle:

After the last city council meeting I thought we had come up with a good solution in splitting the ordnance. I believed that the proposed change would diffuse the hostility going on in the community by giving everyone an opportunity to have a say. After that meeting, I had to travel to check on my mother who was in a hospital outside of Tampa, and I began to give a lot of thought to what I saw.

Of the five cities that we spent time in, we saw what we call "ban breeds" everywhere. We saw service men, seniors, businessmen, and athletes walking their dogs, everyone minding their own business and no panic in the streets. It occurred to me that these cities don't love their families any less than we do, but there was one huge difference between these communities and Maumelle: I was welcome in their cities but these people weren't welcome in mine.

I came home and began to catch up on social media and email and I was very disappointed. The maliciousness had escalated and the people who should have been celebrating the opportunity to vote, which they asked for, were leading the attacks. The posts had gone from hateful to criminal, and there would be another 13 months of this until a possible referendum. This, along with conversations with other residents that had personally been the targets of attack, followed by a message from someone that I had asked to speak at the meeting, was really enlightening for me. This individual is a dog trainer, but because of the personal attacks on city employees and others that had spoken out in the meetings, she feared for the safety of her family and refused to speak.

We have now brought fear into our community at a level that a BSL is "supposed" to prevent. This just shows that it is the people, not the animals, that we should be afraid of. I call on my fellow council members not to allow this to continue. It is time for us to take control of the situation and proceed with a third reading. — Doug Shinn, Councilman Ward 4

When the ordinance finally came to a vote, it passed 5-3.

While I sponsored this ordinance, I have always said this change was brought on by the citizens of Maumelle. This legislation was not something I was looking to propose, but a large group of residents wanted to see this changed. After several years of looking at this issue, I came to the same conclusion that numerous states (20 plus) and municipalities all over the country have come to … Breed Bans do not work and are an ineffective way of preventing dog bites. These bans give a false sense of security that you are protected from dangerous dogs when the reality is that any dog can bite. There is no specific breed that is any more dangerous than another and it is time to move on from this way of thinking. Breed bans became prevalent in the 80’s and 90’s when cities made emotional decisions based on singular dog attacks. You can look across the country and see a variety of breeds that were banned due to a single attack in those areas. When there was another dog attack from a different dog, that dog’s breed would be added to the list. This is a poor way of dealing with dog bites and banning breeds is not the answer. I have full confidence in Maumelle Animal Services to enforce our new code that gives them more tools to be proactive in dealing with situations rather than being reactive when something happens. Will we still have dog bites in Maumelle? Yes. This is a fact of life when people live with and around pets. Going forward our city can focus on enforcing our animal regulations and helping educate our community on ways to prevent dog bites. This is a more productive path than simply banning a breed based on misplaced fears. — Chad Gardner

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In other business, a proposal to rezone land owned by Gene Pfiefer, that has sat vacant for going on two decades, had its second reading. 

“The city’s commercial growth has moved in another direction,” Gardner said. “There’s still some questions to be answered regarding this proposal, but the proposed change might help spur growth in other areas.”

Another piece of nearby property would be rezoned from C3 to C2 and, “this is a downgrade in the sense that C2 would only allow lighter commercial uses rather than the existing C3 that allows for heavier commercial use. The applicant asked for this rezoning request in order to make the entire area be more compatible with the surrounding property uses.”

Also proposed was a new ordinance that would require owners of short-term rental properties, like Airbnb or VRBO to register as a business owner and pay for an annual business license. This proposal generated some extensive discussion and Gardner expects, “a number of amendments to this proposal” but that he would not support it in its current form.

Brown honored

Pat Brown was named the City of Maumelle’s Employee of the Month. Brown was recognized by Mayor Caleb Norris, and works at Parks & Recreation. Today, Tuesday, April 6, is Pat Brown Day, so celebrate accordingly.

Economic development

Judy Keller gave a department report on Community and Economic Development. There’s an event today, Tuesday, to celebrate the addition that Cypress Cold Storage recently completed in the city’s industrial park and it will start at 1:30 p.m.

Additionally, Keller also told the Council that the “Select Site” in the Maumelle Industrial Park has received interest from several buyers but one drawback is that the site’s not been cleared and prepared for construction. The city has lost out on several opportunities since the cost to prepare the land would be too much when there are other sites in central Arkansas that are already prepared for construction.