Less than three weeks after a retired Army colonel was attacked by a pit bull in Oktibbeha County, he stood in front of the county”s Board of Supervisors Monday and urged the board to enact enforceable animal control measures.
Oktibbeha County has no vicious dog ordinance, so the owner of a pit bull that attacked Col. Herbert Turner last month faces no legal repercussions for the incident, which left the colonel”s leg mangled and bloody. Teeth marks were still visible on his leg Monday.
The incident happened at an acquaintance”s house on Sixteenth Section Road, Turner said, when he stepped out of his vehicle and the dog mauled his leg. Turner did not require a trip to the hospital, but a relative did patch up his wounds.
A Starkville animal control officer and police officer went to the scene after the attack and retrieved the dog, Turner said. It was taken to the animal shelter, then a veterinarian, where it received shots and was released to the owner, Turner said.
Now, Turner is upset because the county”s Board of Supervisors has yet to enact a vicious dog ordinance which would hold owners of vicious dogs responsible for their pets” actions. He cited not only the attack on him, but also a pit bull attack in Pontotoc, which left a man dead just days after Turner last implored the board to enact a vicious dog ordinance on Jan. 24.
“I will not allow you to sit around and not come up with an immediate plan to protect the citizens you represent,” Turner said during an impassioned plea for action.
District 5 Supervisor John Young last summer said he was researching vicious dog ordinances after a group of dogs killed several cows and a goat in three different attacks south of Starkville. On Monday, Young said he is still researching ordinances from other counties and municipalities, but Turner was not satisfied with the explanation. He doesn”t want to see a young child fall prey to a dog attack, no matter the breed.
“Don”t let a parent come here and say ”The blood of my child is on your hands,”” Turner said.
District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said the board has to be careful not to discriminate against particular breeds of dogs, such as pit bulls, and described it as “a unique situation.”
“This is something that could really take some time,” Howard said.
District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said he would like to get citizen input on whether or not to enact a vicious animal ordinance. The board could form a committee of animal behavior experts, Humane Society members and others to discuss the county”s options, Trainer said.
“I feel we are obligated to do something about the matter,” Trainer said.
Young, however, felt the board should draw up an ordinance unique to Oktibbeha County and then hold public hearings. The board would then vote on the ordinance after the hearings, Young said.
“I think we should have something to present to (the public),” Young said.
County attorney Jack Brown also warned the board not to discriminate against certain breeds of dog, saying the animals” upbringing shapes their behavior.
“There are many pit bulls that are nice, gentle dogs,” Brown said.
It would cost the county $80,000 to $100,000 per year to fund a full-time animal control officer and pay for a vehicle and expenses, such as fuel, Brown estimated.
In Starkville, a dog or cat is considered dangerous if, “without provocation, (it) bites, inflicts injury, assaults or otherwise attacks a person in any place where such person is conducting himself or herself peaceably and lawfully, whether on public or private property, or attacks another animal when such animal is not on the property of the owner, possessor, or custodian of the attacking animal,” according to the city”s animal control ordinance. The recent attacks in Oktibbeha County would qualify those animals as “dangerous.”
Police and animal control officers in Starkville can issue citations and summons to owners of dangerous animals. Oktibbeha County doesn”t have an animal control officer.
Persons can use lethal force to defend themselves or their property, such as livestock, against a dog attack, Brown said.
In other business Monday, supervisors agreed to advertise for bids to restore 5.6 miles of local waterways.
As part of the project, a company will remove fallen trees, beaver dams and stumps from 2.7 miles of a Trim Cane Creek tributary, from Highway 82 south; 1.7 miles of a Sand Creek tributary, from Old Mayhew Road north; and 1.2 miles of Tobacco Juice Creek, south from Highway 12.
The stumps, dams and trees will be removed manually. Oktibbeha County received a $240,000 grant to pay for the project.
County engineer Clyde Pritchard said the project will help water flow through the tributaries and creek, and alleviate flooding caused by beaver dams.
“Beavers are hard to whip,” Pritchard said. “They work nights.”
Supervisors Monday also passed a resolution which gave Mississippi State University”s National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center permission to move forward with a strategic plan for the county. nSPARC will now begin meeting with the board to devise a strategies and set short-term and long-term goals.