By LACEY MCLAUGHLIN
RIDGELAND - Under a proposed animal control ordinance, current pit bull owners would be allowed to keep their dogs as long as they are registered, but new ones would be banned from the city.
Residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on the proposed ordinance at a public hearing set for March 17.
The issue has been discussed and debated by city officials for several months now following an altercation between two neighbors.
During the Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday, City Attorney James Gabriel resubmitted a proposed amendment to the animal control ordinance that would effectively ban American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Wolf-dog hybrids.
The new proposal includes a grandfather clause that would allow residents to keep up to three banned breeds that are currently present in the city.
However, from the date the ordinance is set, owners will have 60 days to register the banned breeds.
Also included in the amended ordinance is a stipulation that any dog deemed "dangerous" will be required to present proof to an animal control officer that a safe and secure enclosure is provided for the animal and be subject to routine inspections.
Requirements also call for the owner and dog to register for a training course and complete the course within six months of registration to keep the dog.
Mayor Gene F. McGee said he thought the revised ordinance provided guidelines that protect responsible dog owners.
"Hopefully they can accept the ordinance that the city has put together," he said. "The grandfather clause provides language for responsible dog owners."
Under penalties stipulated in the ordinance failure to comply would result in up to a $1,000 fine or jail time.
Alderman-at-Large Gerald Steen said he is a firm believer that there is enough evidence to show that Pit Bulls are dangerous breeds and supports the ban, but said he would keep an open mind during the public hearing.
"I am open minded to listen even though I haven't been swayed yet," he said. "I would like to get all the facts because this is a sensitive issue."
An amendment to the current animal ordinance was proposed during a board meeting last October and was delayed after several citizens attended the meeting to voice their concerns.
Citizens voiced their concerns again during a meeting last November. The board agreed to explore different options and gather more information about the legality of a breed-specific ban.
The proposed ban is the result of a dispute between two neighbors on Ralde Circle in which one neighbor considered the other's dogs to be a threat.
Gloria Grantham of Ralde Circle was the owner of four pit bulls and a Rottweiler when her neighbor, April Scott told the board in September that the Grantham dogs were dangerous.
In May the city granted the Granthams a special permit to keep six dogs, despite a city ordinance allowing no more than three. Later the board revoked that permit due to the Scott's complaints.