Okolona amends animal ordinance

By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal

OKOLONA – Dogs that are deemed a nuisance to neighbors are now covered under an amended city animal ordinance.

The Okolona Board of Mayor and Aldermen tweaked the city’s new animal ordinance earlier this month to change the number of dogs allowed on a single piece of property and inserted the word “nuisance” instead.

“Under this change it will no longer matter how many animals you have, but whether they are a nuisance or not,” said Okolona City Attorney Gene Barton. “The old language limited a homeowner to three dogs.”

Okolona Mayor Louise Floyd-Cole said a lot of work went into the city’s new animal ordinance and this amendment was made to better suit city concerns.

“Five dogs that are quiet and don’t cause problems are not a nuisance,” said Cole. “But one dog that barks or is dangerous could be a nuisance. We just wanted an ordinance that addressed our concerns so police can deal with it.”

Under the new ordinance city police can write a ticket for any animal deemed a nuisance. The old ordinance only allowed the dogcatcher to write tickets to owners of animals.

Police Chief Tommy Lee said he welcomed the new law and felt pit bulls should be banned.

“We went to a house recently and there was a bulldog there that was about to eat our guy up,” said Lee. “If those dogs get loose and threaten our officers, we have no option but to shoot it and we don’t want that.”

Lee did ask the city to provide an ordinance code number for nuisance animals that officers can put on a citation.

Barton said officers could write “nuisance animal” on the ticket, the court would accept it and he would prosecute it.

“The key issue is dogs and specifically those that might hurt someone,” said Barton. “This ordinance defines what a pit bull breed is, what a vicious dog is and the regulations and penalties for letting dogs run loose.”

Barton pointed out the term dangerous animal – while specifically addressing pit bull dogs – also include hogs, bulls, snakes and horses.

“This ordinance does not ban dangerous animals, but it does require you register them with the city,” said Barton. “You would also be required to obtain a $1,000 yearly permit to keep your animal.”

Barton said the new ordinance does not target any one group or type of animal.

The new ordinance also prevents the riding of horses on city sidewalks, the housing of chickens, pigs and goats inside the city limits and how much space is required to keep livestock such as cattle and horses.