MABEN — The lack of a vicious dog ordinance in Oktibbeha County could soon change.
County citizens are outraged following the vicious attack of five pit bulls on the sons, ages 4 and 10, of Katie and Robertsen Riehle, Saturday on Self Creek Road. Both children were treated at OCH Regional Medical Center, while the older of the two was later transported to University Medical Center in Jackson.
The Riehle family confirmed both children have since been released from the hospital, and the 4-year-old has returned to school.
The aftermath has rekindled an ongoing debate over there being no consequences for owners of dogs that aren”t confined and harass citizens.
Earlier this year, retired Army Col. Herbert Turner was attacked by a pit bull on Sixteenth Section Road and later urged the Board of Supervisors to take immediate action to enact a vicious dog ordinance.
Dissatisfied with the board”s inaction at the February board meeting, Turner offered a chilling warning: “Don”t let a parent come here and say ”The blood of my child is on your hands.””
That”s likely to happen at the Sept. 5 board meeting.
John Marler, a neighbor of both the Riehles and the owners of the dogs, whose names haven”t been released by the Oktibbeha County Sheriff”s Department, said “many citizens” will implore the board to take action at the next meeting.
“There”s no law in the county so [the owners of the dogs] have done nothing illegal,” Marler said. “The sheriff”s department can”t do anything until the board of supervisors passes a vicious animal law out here.”
Both attacks this year came on the heels of five cows being mauled to death by pit bulls off Oktoc Road in July 2010. Each attack since that time happened in a different county district.
Oktibbeha County Sheriff Dolph Bryan said his department doesn”t receive many calls about vicious dogs in the county, but when they do it”s usually because of a violent attack.
“I”ve been worried about this happening for a long time,” Bryan said. “When we”re out and we see these dogs we think, ”wow, it”s a wonder something bad hasn”t happened.” Well now something bad has happened. Maybe we”ll get an ordinance. I think the Board of Supervisors is taking this serious and will have a positive reaction to this.”
Supervisors contend enacting a vicious dog ordinance is more complicated than people think.
The county doesn”t have animal-control officers or vehicles, estimated to cost between $80,000 and $100,000 per year to add to the sheriff”s department. Hence, supervisors are unsure of how to have an enforceable law that the department can handle or to hire an animal-control officer.
The county is hesitant to enforce leash laws, which would likely draw ire from residents who enjoy their animal freedoms, District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said.
“The board has always been hesitant about adding on ordinances,” Trainer said. “People have a lot of freedom in this county. At the same time, as the county continues to grow privileges have some limitations if they have impact on other people. We”ve always responded in defense instead of being proactive. Whatever we do won”t be perfect but at the same time it”ll be a start.”
District 4 Supervisor Daniel Jackson said he and the board will examine the ordinance in Pontotoc County that went into effect on Aug. 12.
Pontotoc”s ordinance sets provisions for its animal control officer and clearly defines what is considered a vicious dog, which basically is an dog that harasses citizens unprovoked and/or attacks people. It also lays out a fine structure for impounding dogs, but only after a dog has been picked up and returned must a owner keep it in a pen or on a chain.
Pontotoc County Board of Supervisors” decision to enact an ordinance was in response to the death of Ronnie Waldo, who was attacked by pit bulls in February.
In the city of Starkville, which has a dangerous animal ordinance, police and animal-control officers can issue summons and citations to owners of dangerous animals.
OCSD deputies respond to calls about dangerous dogs and call SPD animal control if the dog needs to be picked up.
–No charges filed in latest attack
Saturday”s pit-bull attack came after numerous calls from neighbors to the OCSD about the dogs harassing people and even killing one man”s cat.
Marler said he”d talked to the owners multiple times about keeping the dogs on leashes or in pens, and it wasn”t until one of his cats was killed that the owners built a pen.
Still, the dogs ran loose.
“The deputies have talked to them and so has the neighbor across the road,” Marler said. “The father of the child who was bitten talked to them within a week of this (attack) happening and nothing happened.
I have four children myself ranging from five years old to 16, and it”s been very scary for us.”
As of Thursday, no charges had been filed against the owners because technically they haven”t violated a law. But Bryan said the OCSD has filed a statute it would like to proceed on but is “waiting for the district attorney”s blessing” before continuing.
Bryan said dogs are usually tagged and collared in the county, but the five dogs involved in the attack weren”t.
“Plus, the owners said they were vaccinated, and we”ve given them time to bring us proof of vaccination in,” Bryan said. “They said they went to the (Oktibbeha County) Co-op and bought the serum and gave them the shot, but nobody but a licensed vet can give the shot.”
The owners of the dogs, who live at 1210 Charlottes Way, weren”t home Thursday to respond to neighbors” concerns. There was one pit bull at the home chained up in the carport.
A justice court hearing to determine the disposition of the dogs, which are currently being held at the animal-control division of the Starkville Police Department, hasn”t been set yet.