Oxford aldermen approve new leash ordinance

By The Associated Press

OXFORD — Oxford aldermen have tinkered with the local leash ordinance to require pet owners to be in more direct control of their dogs.

While the existing ordinance says dogs must be under the control of a competent person, the new wording says dogs must now be under the direct, physical control of their keeper or owner.

The city also updated the law to say animals can’t run free on any public property. The existing rule said they couldn’t run onto other people’s property.

“We are not going out here to hammer the community about having their dog on their leash, but, yes, the reason it was changed is to tighten up in areas that were problems,” Police Chief Mike Martin told The Oxford Eagle.

“I put it in the same context of why fireworks are illegal in the city … it will help in places like the parks and downtown on the Square where you have a large gathering of people. It is going to help us have less problems.”

Martin said if a dog is on its property, but suddenly runs off the property and the owner is trying to catch it, the police are not there to ticket the owner. However, if an owner takes their animal to a public place, such as Lamar Park, and knowingly lets it off its leash to roam free, they will get a ticket.

The fine for a leash law ticket violation is $174.

Dog owner Kevin Frye told aldermen this week that the ordinance outlaws playing fetch.

“You can no longer play fetch with your dog. If your dog is chasing a ball, it is no longer under your physical control,” he said.

Frye said there is no allowance for service dogs trained to assist those with a physical disability.

City Attorney Pope Mallette said a service dog that’s on its harness and moves ahead of its owner to open doors or do other work is not going to be misconstrued by police or the courts as being out of control.

“There is no right for those dogs to run loose or be at large, either,” Mallette said. “A dog in a harness that steps forward to do something is still under the direct physical control.”

Alderman Janice Antonow said she hopes it will not be long before dog owners have a park to let their dogs run loose. The new ordinance had language included to allow for such a dog park in the city.