EDITORIAL: Original dog ordinance should be reconsidered

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By The Staff

History has made it clear that it’s impossible to legislate morality.

Not even Moses zapping “Thou Shalt Not Kill” onto a slab of rock and throwing it at a bunch of heathen fornicators has been able to stop mankind from greasing each other by any means available, and probably never will.

Gun laws have never prevented people from misusing them, and laws against robbing banks have never kept people from robbing them.

People will do what is in their minds to do, which leaves society no option but to punish them after the fact with fines, prison, lethal injection or, in Florida and Texas, a ride on Old Sparky.

Dogs aren’t humans and we’re no more likely to legislate them into doing what’s right than we are people. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enact laws to keep the worst of the worst dogs from maiming or, God forbid, killing us.

During last Tuesday’s meeting of the Anderson County Fiscal Court, magistrates bemoaned the fact that, like it or not, they have to do something to stem the pit bull attacks that have become a scourge on our fair county.

Trouble is, the ordinance they are trying yet again to pass isn’t going to do the job and they know it.

Here’s what went wrong, and how to fix it.

When the fiscal court first decided to tackle the pit bull problem, several magistrates had it right. They asked the county attorney to draft an ordinance that would make owning a pit bull difficult and expensive, the idea being to prevent further attacks following a rash of them early last year.

The county attorney delivered an ordinance that would do just that, only to see it shredded in short order by a subcommittee consisting mostly of Humane Society volunteers, a veterinarian and a dog trainer from Mercer County.

They made it clear from the start that they would not support any breed specific legislation, and that those portions of the ordinance that singled out pit bulls would have to go.

The fiscal court acquiesced and proceeded to vote down the watered down version of the ordinance several times during the year.

The problem, it appears, is that magistrates weren’t willing to declare pit bulls potentially vicious or vicious until after they’ve bitten someone. The way the current ordinance is written, pit bulls and other dogs get the benefit of the doubt and are allowed to bite someone before receiving either designation.

So it should come as no surprise that it’s a meaningless ordinance until after the fact, and one that will only allow animal control to deal with a vicious dog once it has shown its true colors.

Now how to fix it. Instead of worrying their heads over who will get upset if their pit bull is suddenly declared potentially vicious, magistrates should instead worry their heads about their victims and revert back to the original ordinance.

It doesn’t forbid owning a pit bull, but makes it clear the dog must be insured, fixed and properly housed at all times.

Because those requirements could be a genuine hardship on some whose pit bulls have never harmed a fly, the fiscal court should allow those dogs to be grandfathered in, provided they are registered, fixed, properly restrained and micro-chipped within two months from the date the ordinance is passed. Magistrates could also grant a waiver on the liability insurance required in the original ordinance, unless the dog violates the ordinance at a later date.

Once the two months have passed, any pit bull found in Anderson County that does not meet those guidelines would be confiscated by animal control. No exceptions, no excuses.

Of course doing so won’t be popular, and opponents would re-launch their arguments about other dogs being more likely to bite and that the county will get sued, etc.

But the bottom line isn’t bite statistics or threatened lawsuits from other parts of the country. It’s about what’s happening here in Anderson County, the fiscal court doing what it takes to keep residents safe, and the fact that our county attorney isn’t going to provide an ordinance that will not stand up in court.

It’s time, lady and gentlemen, to move past this issue and do what’s right.