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Proposed Gainesville ordinance would protect pets from animal attacks

POSTED: February 5, 2014 12:52 a.m.

Gainesville residents will soon have recourse if other animals attack their pets after City Council heard a first reading Tuesday on amending its animal control ordinance.

The amendment will become law when council casts a final vote on the matter at its Feb. 18 meeting.

The amendment reclassifies what constitutes a “dangerous” and “potentially dangerous” animal.

The change is aimed at cracking down on domesticated animals that bite, chase, attack or otherwise endanger the safety of other animals on both public and private property without provocation. Moreover, the amendment stipulates that animals with a “known propensity, tendency or disposition” to attack unprovoked will be cited as a first step toward further penalties.

The original ordinance only earmarked penalties when an animal attacked or caused injuries to humans. But those penalties will soon be in place when an attack occurs on domesticated animals, as well, aligning it with a county ordinance. The city contracts its animal control services with Hall County.

“We would like to more closely mirror Hall County,” Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard said. “It’s kind of a gap in the ordinance, and we felt like it was something important that needed changing.”

If an animal is classified as “dangerous,” it must be registered with Hall County Animal Control, enclosed with visible warning signs, and owners are required to take out a $100,000 insurance policy. Additionally, the animal must be muzzled if it is outside its enclosure.

The ordinance amendment was prompted by Gainesville resident Mary Paglia after she complained that her dogs were being repeatedly attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull, which The Times reported on last month.

After years of making phone calls to government officials that had fallen on deaf ears, Paglia said she was pleased the ordinance amendment appeared to be finally coming to fruition.

“It gives us a tool to protect our pets,” she said. “I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Though finger-pointing is often directed at pit bulls, animal control receives many calls about other breeds of dogs responsible for causing injuries to both humans and pets.

“It’s not really breed specific,” said Hall County Animal Services Director Mike Ledford. “It’s across the board.”
Ledford said owners typically comply with penalties imposed when their dogs are cited as “dangerous.”

“It happens periodically,” he added. “It’s not an everyday occurrence ... but it can become a problem in certain areas and certain situations.”

Sheppard said she is in the process of overhauling the city’s entire animal control ordinance, which should be complete in the next few months.

“There are just things we haven’t addressed in a while,” she said. “In the meantime, we just wanted to go ahead and close this loophole.”

Sheppard said the city would continue to outlaw the tethering of animals.

For some Gainesville residents, the amendment is long overdue, and brings some peace of mind for the health and safety of their own pets.

“Ordinances like this are an unfortunate necessary evil,” Hall County resident Brian Davis told The Times in an email. “(There is) too much propaganda claiming dangerous animals like these are sweet and good with children and nanny dogs. Some people actually believe that and lose all respect for how dangerous these animals really are.”


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