R. J. Mazzoni: Ordinance 1022 and what it does

The big item for City Council is Ordinance 1022, which is revising our animal enforcement procedures, consolidates three categories of potentially dangerous dogs into one, and eliminates the ban on specific breeds of dogs (AKA Pit bulls). 

 At the last City Council meeting, I introduced an amendment to this ordinance to address the concerns I have with it.  I wanted to get the focus away from just the breed ban aspect of this proposal and concentrate on the provisions it has for our safety.  The pit bull aspect has been, and will continue to be, the main focus of debate, so I’ll just address my amended changes.  

My biggest fear with this proposed ordinance was changing the criteria for determining a dangerous dog.  Any aggressive approach now “must include aggressive physical contact.”  I feel the intent of this ordinance should be to stop dogs before there is an attack, so I changed the wording to reflect that.  This mirrors city code for Conway, Jacksonville, Little Rock, Sherwood, North Little Rock, and Little Rock.

I was also concerned that there were no conditions for an owner installing an electric fence.  While there are many dogs that will completely respect the electric fence boundaries, many others do not.  Electric fences also do not keep other animals out.  

The bulk of my changes dealt with conditions for people to keep either a “dangerous” or “vicious” dog.  Not a week goes by that a dog owner frantically posts about their escaped pets.  We need to be extra vigilant with these dogs to keep all of Maumelle safe.  I added provisions to authorize animal services to inspect the exteriors to ensure the fences remain in good repair and that if the animal does get loose, the owner must immediately notify animal services so they would help locate the dog right away.  Additionally, a dangerous or vicious animal must be spayed/neutered.  

I also added a requirement for all dangerous and vicious dogs to have an annual permit.  I feel that a financial penalty would entice owners who knew their dog had aggressive tendencies would work hard to secure their pet.  

I’m not content that once a dog got labelled as “dangerous” that it would be hazardous for the rest of its life.  A rescue dog could act out of fear of other humans and be labelled “dangerous” but as it warms to its new family, that fear subsides.  For dogs like this, the owner could petition Animal Services to remove the dangerous declaration after three years if there were no violations or complaints against the dog and the dog completed a training program from a certified trainer.

The amended ordinance will have its first reading at the next Council meeting. 

R. J. Mazzoni is a Maumelle City Council Member and represents Ward 2