City looking into controlling unleashed dogs

-A A +A
By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Chiefland commissioners have given city staff permission to look into a new program aimed at controlling roaming dogs within city limits.

The city has a leash law, but some, such as City Manager Kevin Gay, say the law doesn't help when pet owners refuse to claim ownership of an animal picked up off the streets. 

At Monday's regular commission meeting, Gay pitched the idea of putting into place a pet licensing program to give the city more "teeth," adding that the program could require pets, especially dogs, to be microchipped.

Gay, making the issue a matter of safety for both animals and humans, also referenced the recent killing of an unleashed pitbull within city limits by a man who said he felt his life was at stake.

"I don't think this is going to go over too good," Commissioner Rollin Hudson said about requiring animals to be microchipped.

"Uh huh," Commissioner Betty Walker said in agreement, "that's not going to fly in Chiefland."

"We need some way to know who these dogs belong to," said Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas, explaining that several dogs each week are picked up and taken to the city's dog pound.

"This is all in an effort to control it," Gay said. "We have a problem with it."

"If we have a problem now, we had an epidemic 20 years ago," said Mayor Teal Pomeroy.

Vice Mayor Teresa Barron asked what microchipping animals might cost. Gay said he wasn't sure and only wanted a chance to look into the matter a bit and even suggested a program might be something local veterinarians wind up managing. "It will help their businesses in the same run," he said.

"That will never work," said Commissioner Chris Jones on requiring microchipping. Besides, he added, in small communities people know who a dog or other animal belongs to.

Gay said people, especially when confronted with the liability of an animal that hurts someone or causes damage to property, simply deny ownership of the dog when confronted by authorities.

The city was confronted with that exact issue earlier in the year when two pitbulls, roaming free, were alleged to have attacked several Chiefland residents. A girl was said to have received more than 200 stitches after one of the dogs wounded her. It took months for authorities to find how who the dogs belonged to.

Besides the safety issue, Douglas said the city could be held liable if more strict rules aren't put into place.

"If somebody's being torted (sued), they're going to ask 'What did the city do?'" Douglas said.

Barron suggested that microchipping only be required for dogs after they had been picked up and placed in the pound.

"There's no problem with doing it that way if you're dog's been deemed a nuisance," Jones said.

Hudson agreed, saying Barron's idea was a better way to approach it, rather than requiring all dogs in the city be microchipped.

Still, he said, it could lead to a lot of abandoned dogs at the pound.

"They might not want their dog back," he said.

"Problem solved," Douglas replied.

No vote was taken on the matter, though Gay was instructed to check into the issue and get back to the commission.