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Rockwood's pit bull ban opposed

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By The Staff

By JENNIFER RAYMOND

rcraymond@bellsouth.net

A proposed ordinance on the agenda for the Rockwood City Council on Monday (tonight) has gained the attention of a local advocacy group.

Rockwood has plans to vote on an ordinance to ban pit bulls within the city.

The proposal lit a fire under Wendy Bane, a member of Responsible Dog Owners of Tennessee, who decided to take action.

She and other members of the group are against breed-specific bans, and plan to take a stand at the meeting.

"Breed-specific legislation is not the best option," Bane said. "It gives citizens a false sense of security and ignores the true scope of the problem."

The initiator of the ordinance is Mayor Mike "Brillo" Miller.

Miller's major concern is keeping children safe from what he considers a dangerous dog breed.

"I don't want to have to look a parent in the face and say, 'I'm sorry I didn't do anything,'" Miller said recently.

Bane and other members of the group agree that dangerous dogs should be dealt with, but they also believe an entire breed can not be deemed as dangerous.

They have support.

According to a study done by Karen Delise with the National Canine Research Council, from 1965 to 2001 there were 431 fatal dog attacks in the United States. And according to this study, 22 of these occurred in Tennessee. And the culprit of these attacks is linked to 10 different breeds or types of dogs.

"If you don't focus on the right problem, you don't get the right result." Bane said.

The proposed ordinance draws heavily on an ordinance passed in Sparta, according to city recorder Jim Hines.

It would ban all pit bulls within the city, unless a person owned a pit bull before the ordinance was adopted. Those who did would then have to follow certain regulations, including registering the dog, leashing and muzzling it while in public, keeping it in a locked kennel when outside at home, posting "beware of dog" signs and providing proof of liability insurance for a single incident in the amount of $100,000.

The ordinance also stipulates that if any registered pit bull has puppies, they must be removed from the city within six weeks.

Bane said the biggest problem with this ordinance is that the breed, pit bull, does not exist.

"You're looking at four breeds or more," Bane said that resemble a pit bull.

The ordinance does address this fact and states that the bull terrier breed, Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire, dogs of mixed breed or other breeds than prior known as pit bulls, or any dog that has the appearance or characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds listed above is included in the term, pit bull.

Eddie Falin, another member of the group and a dog breeder, said, "You're looking at 25 different breeds because of the characteristics."

Miller believes that breed specific legislation is the best route, but the Responsible Dog Owners of Tennessee and many other groups disagree.

"We are barking up the wrong tree if we are considering breed specific bans," Joyce Montgomery, another member, said.

The group thinks the best route is a community approach for dog bite prevention, which was developed by the Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The main focus of this program is prevention and education.

"We need to educate kids and adults," Montgomery said. "We're growing the next generation of dog owners."

One program recommends setting up a task force to look at the problem and then determine ways to handle the situation. It also recommends licensing dogs, having control of free-roaming dogs, requiring up to date vaccinations for all dogs, and reporting any medically-attended dog bite incidences.

The State of Nevada was able to reduce dog bites by 15 percent after implementing the program.

"Throughout history, different breeds have been targeted as dangerous," Bane said. "But circumstances around bites haven't changed."

The Responsible Dog Owners of Tennessee group is encouraging Rockwood and any other city considering a breed-specific ban to reconsider.

"Punish the deed, not the breed," Sandra Falin said.

Bane also pointed out that two cities in Tennessee that carried out breed-specific legislation have already repealed that decision because of its ineffectiveness and cost.

If the ordinance is passed, many regulations that a pit bull owner must adhere to who become costly.

The kennel costs roughly $400, according to Bane. And the liability insurance would cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 a year, per dog.

Members from the group plan to voice their opinions Monday.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at city hall in Rockwood.

On top of the Rockwood ordinance, state Sen. Tommy Kilby has introduced a bill that would ban pit bulls.

The bill was introduced on Jan. 14 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.