Tupelo Pit bull ordinance dies

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A controversial pit bull ordinance unexpectedly died Tuesday when the City Council failed to bring it up for a vote.
Municipal leaders had been expected to pass the amendment, which would have strengthened existing regulations on dangerous animals, including pit bulls. Many council members had voiced support for the proposal as late as Monday.
But no one made a motion to vote on it during the meeting. A motion and a second is needed before the council can pass or reject an item.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” said a stunned council President Fred Pitts afterward.
As president, Pitts can not motion for a vote. Ward 5 Councilman Jonny Davis said he would have made the motion but knew he wouldn’t have received a second.
“It changes every day,” Davis said. “Come back tomorrow. It’ll be different.”
Several people and organizations had lobbied against the ordinance in the days leading up to the expected vote. Among them were Tupelo veterinarian Stephen King and Tupelo Kennel Club member Tere Woody, both of whom publicly addressed the council at the meeting.
They argued breed-specific legislation unfairly punishes responsible pet owners and isn’t truly effective anyway. But others, including Tupelo-Lee Humane Society Director Debbie Hood, had favored the tougher rules because of the city’s high number of pit bull complaints.
Woody also questioned the constitutionality of the ordinance, which, in its current form, has been law in Tupelo since 1988. City attorney John Hill has defended it as legal and noted that it hadn’t received a single challenge since taking effect.
Woody and King had urged city leaders to postpone a decision until they could create a more reasonable ordinance.
“I’m happy with the outcome,” said Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell, who opposed the proposed amendment. “There is concern, but I think we need to go back and start over.”
Tupelo’s current ordinance, which also singles out pit bulls, remains in effect despite this week’s failure to strengthen it.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com