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Gainesville won't ban pit bulls
Georgia law prohibits breed-specific prohibition
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Mayor discusses water rate issue

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan took a moment Tuesday to publicly respond to comments by members of the Hall County Board of Commissioners about the difference in water rates for city residents and those who live outside the city’s limits.

Dunagan said the city has had an independent contractor analyze what city and county water rates should be as per an agreement between the county and the city in 1997. He said the city plans to conduct another study this year.

“We have nothing to hide and we would be more than glad to answer any of their concerns,” Dunagan said.

Dunagan also called on the county officials to live up to their side of the agreement, which he said would require them to fund a tax equity study that would determine whether city residents pay too much county tax for services they don’t receive.

View a video of the mayor’s comments.

Gainesville City Council members say they have no plans to ban pit bulls in the city limits.

A number of supporters of the breed came to the council’s Tuesday meeting from as far as Athens, Gwinnett County and Fayetteville to discourage any notion that the council might try to ban the breed.

But after the first of them, Gwinnett County resident Johanna Falber, spoke, City Attorney James E. “Bubba” Palmour said the city could not, under Georgia law, exclude the ownership of a specific breed.

Palmour had looked into the request after a woman called on the City Council at its April 17 meeting to initiate a citywide ban on the breed.

In her plea, Jean Brannon told the story of her grandson whom she said was mauled by a pit bull in Cartersville recently while running alone in a neighborhood. Bartow County Animal Control officials said Tuesday that Brannon’s grandson was attacked by a Dalmatian-Great Dane mix.

Days after the request, a 9-year-old Gainesville girl was flown to an Atlanta hospital after a newly adopted pit bull bit her arms in a McEver Vineyards apartment. Adrinna Adkins was protecting a cat the dog was chasing when it bit into her.

Gainesville resident and pit bull owner Kimberly Major told the council that she was glad the council wouldn’t be pursuing the ban Tuesday.

“I really don’t want to be put in a situation where I have to choose between where I live and a family member,” Major said.

And Falber and others used the council’s public comment period to try and change the tide of public opinion on the dog breed. Falber said the pit bull once had a reputation as a farmhand and was the poster boy for American heroism in World War I.

“This dog, all of a sudden, is a villain...” she told the council. “The issue is not the breed. The issue is the people.”

Kim Newman, also from Gwinnett County, said the source of the breed’s bad reputation was its owners.

“It takes people to create (dangerous dogs),” Newman said.

Another woman, Hilary Vernon of Fayetteville, said city officials would have to spend money trying to identify breeds in order to determine which ones were actually the American pit bull.

That money, she said, would be better spent educating owners on responsible dog ownership and on spay and neuter clinics.

After the city attorney’s statements, however, Mayor Danny Dunagan said the council won’t be taking any more action on pit bulls — a decision that drew praise from those present.

“I’m very glad that y’all did your research,” said Brett Buchwald, a 22-year-old University of Georgia student. “A lot of people do not.”

Councilwoman Ruth Bruner said she felt the city’s less than 5-year-old ordinance that prohibited city dog owners from tethering their dogs was helping deal with issues with unsocialized dogs. She said she wished other local officials would consider the rule.

Councilman Robert “Bob” Hamrick agreed.

“Our leash law, in my opinion, has been sufficient to control the conduct of dogs,” Hamrick said after Tuesday’s meeting.

When he first heard the request to ban pit bulls on April 17, Councilman George Wangemann said he thought to himself that banning the breed wasn’t a bad idea. At the same time, Wangemann said he also figured a ban might bring a legal challenge. After Tuesday’s council meeting, however, Wangemann said he was no longer considering the ban, noting concerns that people could possibly move out of the city limits or not move in because of the ban.

“I feel better now about banning pit bulls,” Wangemann said.


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