By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Despite some lingering doubts, city leaders today are expected to pass a stricter version of Tupelo’s existing dangerous animal ordinance, which automatically includes pit bulls.
“We need to go ahead and pass this,” said City Council President Fred Pitts during a Monday work session at City Hall. “I’ll do everything in my power to make sure this gets enforced.”
The issue had sparked more than an hour of debate among council members last week and garnered more discussion again Monday – this time about liability insurance.
Among the new rules in the proposed amendment is one requiring dangerous animal owners to obtain at least $100,000 in liability insurance. Council members talked about the logistics of getting insurance and whether it’s automatically included in some homeowners’ policies.
Last week council members had debated pit bulls’ automatic inclusion as dangerous animals. Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell argued strongly against it, saying it unfairly punishes a breed, as well as responsible pit bull owners. He was backed by Tupelo veterinarian Stephen King.
But others, including Pitts and Ward 5 Councilman Jonny Davis said people who own pit bulls should assume more responsibility because of the breed’s strength and reputation.
Chief Operations Officer Darrell Smith said when residents call to complain about dogs, it’s almost always about pit bulls. Tupelo-Lee Humane Society Director Debbie Hood offered similar statements.
If it passes, the amendment will take effect 30 days later and will apply to all Tupelo residents.
According to the proposal, owners of pit bulls, as well as those of all pets with a history of aggression, must obtain an $80 permit from the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society and renew it annually. Failure to do so could result in up to $1,000 in fines and up to six months in jail.
Animals are deemed dangerous when, unprovoked, they threaten or attack a person or another pet; if they’re owned or trained primarily for fighting; or if they’re a pure or mixed-breed pit bull.
Also new in the proposed ordinance are a slew of conditions residents must meet to qualify for a dangerous-pet permit.