August 19, 2009 Edition

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WR adds teeth
to dog laws

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council voted to tighten its guidelines for the regulation of dogs within the city limits and agreed to hire three more firefighters at their regular meeting on Aug. 11.

The city has a real problem with animal control, according to Mayor Michelle Rogers.

"We revamped our dog ordinance last year, but now we are having repeat offenders," she said. "People repeatedly pay their fines and keep on letting their dogs run loose.

"Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a dog lover, but I know I have to keep my dogs inside or penned up, and everyone else is supposed to keep theirs up, too."

Rogers said vicious dogs aren't really the main problem, although it is one of the problems. The city just has dogs running loose, and it's illegal to keep them on a chain 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The council has now added an amendment to the existing animal control ordinance. The amendment allows the code enforcement officer to impound a dog that has been picked up on a third offence until the owner proves he has adequately repaired a pen or enclosure to keep the dog from escaping.

The owner has 72 hours to comply. Owners will have to pay $15 for each day the dog or dogs are boarded, and also pay for a rabies shot, a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500 and a $35 reclamation fee. The owner shall also be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and could be required to appear in court and possibly serve jail time.

If the problem is not corrected within the time specified, the code enforcement officer can legally adopt the dog out to a new owner or have it euthanized.

Dogs that bark or make loud or unusual noises to the extent that it is disturbing those residing within reasonable proximity are subject to the same laws as dogs running loose. The amended ordinance states that they should be muzzled or taken inside or the code enforcement officer will have to intervene. On a third offence, these dogs may also be adopted out to a new owner or euthanized.

"Anyone who has been bitten or attacked by a dog should notify the chief of police or animal control officer immediately," Rogers said. "Call us when the attack happens."

The animal will be confined at a veterinary hospital at the expense of the owner for a period of time mandated by the Arkansas State Health Department or the physician who treats the bite victim, whichever period is longer.

Alderman Button Wallin made a recommendation that the city use students at the Black River Technical College Fire Academy to man its airport station to free up current personnel to work at the other two stations.

"We have a Class IV fire rating now and are working for a III," he said. "We have to increase our manpower."

The city will use second-year students at the academy as interns. They will work on an August to August contract, and the city will pay for their tuition and books.

"It will cost a little less than $8,000 a year," Wallin said. "It's a plus-plus situation for us. I'd like to see us put this in the budget."

Fire Chief Alan Haskins said the addition of personnel is one of the largest things the department needs to do to work toward a lower ISO.

Council members voted to add the funds to the budget and hire three interns.

In other business:

  • Milton Smith spoke briefly on the NEA Intermodal Authority's progress. He noted that an engineering firm has been hired, and things are moving forward.

  • it was reported that estimates are being gathered for additional parking at Stewart Park and work should begin soon.

  • aldermen voted to foreclose on a defaulted reuse loan to Emil Smelser.

  • the council was reminded that a sale was set for Friday (Aug. 14) to sell the R&R Contractor's building, located on Highway 67 North near Gateway Animal Clinic. The city has possession of the building through a defaulted loan. The city was seeking a minimum bid of $170,000 to cover the money owed on the loan.

Special meeting

In a special meeting on July 28, the council discussed where to place FEMA funds the city has received until they are used at a later date. It was decided to invest the $188,301.99 in a money market account at Regions Bank.

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