Manila dog ordinance will ban pit bulls

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Town Crier News Staff

Manila City council members discussed and agreed the city's existing dog ordinance should be amended to be more specific on the definition of vicious dogs. City officials had briefly discussed the issue at the March meeting and took action at the meeting held Monday night, April 16.

City Attorney Wayne Wagner submitted a copy of an ordinance from a nearby town for city officials to review. He said he had researched ordinances around the state and some have grandfather clauses for restrictions for owners who already have pit bulls, others ban the breed altogether.

"I can write the ordinance any way you want me to but you need to be specific what you want," Wagner said. "I need to know the wishes of the council. I need your feedback."

Wagner went on to say the city had an ordinance, 159 (signed in 1990), defining vicious dogs as American Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers, but the ordinance was amended in 1997 and the breed name was taken out. The present ordinance, 200, does not name specific breeds.

Councilman Donnie Wagner asked if the pit is considered a vicious dog.

"The pit breed is considered a vicious dog," Wagner said. "Some ordinances define a vicious dog only after it attacks. We at Manila don't want to wait until a child is bitten before action is taken."

Attorney Wagner said ordinance 200 is a good ordinance it just needs to be tightened up.

Councilman Dwight Booth made a motion to have Wagner prepare an ordinance banning pit bull breeds and any other vicious dogs, giving owners one year to get rid of the pit bulls in town. Council members voted unanimously in favor of the motion. Booth also pointed out during this year, all requirements including the specific fencing regulations for vicious dogs in Ordinance 200 should be enforced.

Councilman LeRoy Douglas agreed the ordinance needed stronger language and pit bulls needed to be out of town. He also said he thought it should be brought to the people's attention all dogs kept in the city limits have to be registered and have city tags.

Councilman Dean Cherry said he thought a year was too long.

After lengthy discussion, all council members voted to have Attorney Wagner amend Ordinance 200.

Mayor Veach pointed out the animal control officer has a very hard job.

"We all need to get familiar with these ordinances," Veach said.

Veach thanked Steve Bowman, animal control officer, for being at the meeting.

"As long as you enforce the ordinance, we will be behind you," Veach said.

Veach commented on the city park improvements.

Wagner said the city has about 300 kids participating in ball at the park.

"Anytime emphasis is put on our youth, we can't go wrong," Wagner said.

Fencing for the new t-ball field is underway. Wagner said parking for the ball fields should be on Airport Road.

"I think we just need to get the word out," Wagner said. "Sidewalks have been added from parking to the fields. People living on Davis Street are having a problem with people parking along the street. We want to leave the parking by the old swimming pool for handicapped parking and all others on Airport Road."

Veach said Darrell Birmingham with the Youth Association said several people have complimented the work at the ball park. There are plans to add a pavilion in the center of the parks and concrete walks from all fields to the restrooms.

"I took the liberty of ordering seven sets of bleachers for the ball park," Veach said. "They should be in place in the next few weeks. I would like to see the bleachers covered next year and maybe blacktop parking areas."

Wagner said if any council member or resident has ideas or suggestions about improving the park they should contact one of the park commissioners.

Mayor Veach showed council members a brochure of various water park designs by Rain Drop Products.

"Rain Drop is the one who invented the water parks," Veach said. "They have been in business since 1982."

He said there are several patterns. Trumann and Paragould both have water parks and Lake City is putting one in.

"The questions is do we spend $150,000 on this or continue to save the money until there is enough for a swimming pool?" Veach said. "I think we need to have a public meeting and see what the people want."

Councilman Whiz Larry "Whiz" Davis said we need to let the people know the swimming pool money is there and is still growing.

In other business:

*The council also approved the purchase of a new water billing system including new hand-held meter readers, hardware and software.

*Veach said he had applied for an Entergy-Community Assistance Grant for $1,000.

*Council also approved a community match agreement which will allow Dr. Jeffrey Graham to work in the Wagner Family Medical Clinic in Manila three days a week.

*The council reviewed the budget ending the first quarter of the year. Veach said all in all everything looks good.

*Councilman Booth asked about the possibility of sidewalks on Lake Street going to the city park. Mayor Veach said he would check on estimates.

*Mayor Veach informed council members the city should get a lump sum of $20,900 from the state surplus and the fire department was appropriated $3,100.

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