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 Miss - Jacson ban on pit bulls possible

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Join date : 2010-02-08

PostSubject: Miss - Jacson ban on pit bulls possible   Tue Mar 02, 2010 12:55 pm

Jackson ban on pit bulls possible
Fatal attack on Terry child raises officials' concerns
Chris Joyner • chris.joyner@jackson.gannett.com • March 2, 2010

Jackson City Councilman Jeff Weill believes he has enough votes to ban pit bull terriers from the city, an idea that seemed unlikely before last month's death of a 5-year-old girl in Terry.

Weill, who for months has pushed to ban the controversial breed, said he has the support of a majority of the seven-person council. He said Chokwe Lumumba and Margaret Barrett-Simon have said they would vote in favor, and that Charles Tillman and Kenneth Stokes also have voiced support.

"I'm leaning that way," said Tillman, who represents Ward 5. "You are talking about people's lives."

Weill, of Ward 1, had all but abandoned his idea, but the Feb. 12 attack that killed 5-year-old Anataisa Bingham in Terry has brought up concerns again about the breed.

In 2006, Stokes, the city's Ward 3 representative, pushed to outlaw pit bulls in the city as part of a more comprehensive approach to vicious dogs. Ultimately, the ban was removed from a proposed ordinance when pit bull owners and breeders complained.

"Right now, my position has not changed. I still believe they should be banned," he said. "I think safety must be the overall issue right now."

But Stokes said he is willing to listen to other points of view.

Frank Bluntson and Tony Yarber are the only council members opposed to banning the breed.

Yarber, a pit bull owner, said last month the city should do a better job of enforcing the dog ordinance on the books.

The proposed ban likely will face resistance from owners and breeders of pit bulls. Maurice Williams, owner of Jactown Kennels, compared the proposed ban to racism.

"There is no such thing as a bad dog. It's bad owners," he said.

Williams said he carefully breeds American Bullies, a breed descended from pit bulls, and socializes them so they are comfortable around people.

A Federal Express driver, Williams said he encounters dogs all the time and pit bulls are not what he worries about.

"I'm scared of Rottweilers. I think they are the dumbest dogs you could buy," he said. "The houses I have the most trouble with are those with dachshunds."

But Chassidy Vardaman Webb said the ban is long overdue. Webb's 3-year-old son, Tony Evans Jr., was mauled to death by a pit bull in south Jackson on July 22, 2008.

"It's sad that another child's life had to be taken before they did something about it," she said. "The first one should have been enough. The first one was too much."

In the wake of the attack in Terry, Hinds County also is revisiting its dangerous dog ordinance to include possible stiffer penalties.

Sheriff Malcolm McMillin on Monday requested the Hinds County Board of Supervisors consider spending money to expand the county's animal control facility.

"Our current building has run out of space, and I think we're going to be getting a lot more calls than we have in the past," the sheriff said. "After this last incident (in Terry), there will be a little stepped-up activity as far as reporting dangerous dogs."

The Sheriff's Department has about 15 kennels, McMillin said.

"We're full. We'll need at least twice that," he said.

Debra Boswell, director of the Mississippi Animal Rescue League, said a ban on the breed likely will solve nothing because the city will not be able to enforce it.

"They don't have enough officers to control the at-large dogs as it is," she said. "I don't see how they are going to do that without doubling the number of officers on the street."

A ban will cause pit bull owners to hide their dogs, she said. Boswell said a better approach for the city and county is to adopt ordinances requiring pit bull owners to register their pets, prohibit ownership of multiple pit bulls and require all dogs to be kept in enclosures instead of chains or tethers.

Boswell said the danger posed by pit bulls is incontrovertible because of how they are used.

"We get about 600 a year at our shelter, and 60 percent of those show signs of having been fought," she said. "It's not uncommon to see four, five, six or eight in a backyard."

Boswell said unscrupulous breeding has enhanced aggressiveness in the dogs.

"If their bloodlines are fighting bloodlines, that's just a time bomb waiting to go off," she said.

City and county officials should impose mandatory spaying and neutering of pit bulls and other potentially dangerous dogs rather than attempting a breed-specific ban, Boswell said.

Weill said he plans to bring the ban up next week at a meeting of the council's rules committee. Pending a successful committee vote, the ordinance would move to the full council for public hearings and a final vote.

Weill suggested a ban on the breed could be gradual.

"There is discussion of a grandfather clause for those pit bulls that are older and have a stellar (safety) record," he said.

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