Caraway City Council stands behind pit bull dog ordinance
Tensions flared as the Caraway City Council defended an effective pit bull dog ordinance at the regularly scheduled meeting Thursday evening. Several representatives and citizens were in attendance to voice their concerns and objections regarding the new ordinance.
Katrina Boatman, founder of Rescue Paws from Paragould, was present and spoke on behalf of citizens of the city of Caraway.
“I’m here to represent the citizens of your community that feel you guys are personally singling them out because of a certain breed of dog,” Boatman said. “I have petition here with signatures from a lot of people in Caraway that don’t agree with the ordinance.” When asked if the board wanted to see the petition, Mayor Barry Riley said, “I would like to see it.”
Boatman further discussed how the pit bull dog ordinance has affected the community of Caraway.
“Regulating dogs based upon this physical description or breed doesn’t reduce dog bites but regulating dogs based on behavioral selections is effective...most importantly, studies continue to show that one kind of dog is not more likely to be a threat or bite a human being than any other dog,” Boatman said. “The citizens of Caraway feel there should be another way to enforce the ordinance by implementing other policies such as special training for the owners...holding them more responsible for their dogs...keeping them tethered while outside, because some of these owners have had their dogs for seven, 10 years, some even 13 years and now they feel their pets are being taken away from them for the wrong reason.”
Arkansas Municipal League Staff Attorney Lanny Richmond II was also in attendance and represented the city of Caraway during the discussion.
“The purpose of the council and mayor is to implement the policy that the city wants. They look out and try to figure out if it is something the city wants and that’s what they did here,” Richmond said. “If 51 percent of the city said they were opposed to this ordinance, things would have gone into a different direction.”
Wanda Turner, executive director of Northeastern Arkansans for Animals and licensed behavior therapist, was also in attendance to speak on behalf of the citizens of Caraway regarding the new ordinance.
“I’ve been asked to speak at several city council meetings regarding breed specific legislation. Enforcement of breed specific legislation doesn’t work for the simple fact it’s hard to determine the pit bull breed or if a dog actually has a certain percentage of pit bull in it,” Turner said. “Just because a dog looks like a pit bull dog doesn’t mean it is one and just because a dog doesn’t look like a pit bull dog doesn’t mean it’s not one. So there can and will be a lot of legal issues regarding determining what these dogs are.”
Lanny continued to refute the claim that the ordinance wouldn’t benefit the community by reiterating the purpose of the ordinance.
“The purpose of the ordinance is to protect the city of Caraway. The mayor and council feel it’s necessary to maintain a certain level of safety throughout the community.”
Ultimately, the board stood beside their decision to enforce the ordinance.
“We’ve had two instances regarding a pit bull dog and there was one instance where the life of a child could have been compromised had a pit bull dog gotten hold of that child,” Riley said. “For that reason alone, this is why I will continue to stand behind this ordinance. We can’t take that chance because we don’t know what these animals are capable of."
Riley went on to explain a few things regarding the ordinance.
“I want everyone to understand the ordinance states that ANY dog that bites someone in the city of Caraway will be deemed a vicious animal and will be removed as any pit bull would in the same instance,” Riley said. “The issue is that yes, all dogs bite, but the viciousness of the pit bull dog sets it aside from the rest. You may be able to survive being bitten by any other dog, but the risk is greater to not survive being bitten by a pit bull dog.”
The mayor and council agreed to look into the use of dogs being designated as service dogs in the city.
In other business:
Marvin Browning made a motion to accept Mayor Riley’s report on the Arkansas Legislative Audit report for 2016. The report listed three findings for the city recorder-treasurer, which were explained by Rick Stevens. The motion was seconded by Jerry Martin and passed 4-0.
Mayor Riley informed the council the city would be entering into an agreement with Jonesboro concerning community service.
Mayor Riley announced the city of Caraway July 4th picnic will be held on Tuesday, July 4th.