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Supes say county vicious dog code may need tweaks

October 25, 2012

Two supervisors say the most recently passed version of the county’s vicious dog ordinance may need to be tweaked in light of a recent incident in which a teenager was allegedly surrounded in an aggressive manner and knocked to the ground by a pack of pit bull terriers.

The mother of the alleged victim, Katie Riehle, said in an email to District 3 Supervisor and Board President Orlando Trainer that her 16-year-old son Zeniff was taking a walk near the family’s home on Self Creek Road when he was threatened by a group of dogs and escaped injury when a passer-by neighbor came to his aid and took him back home.

Zeniff Riehle is the older brother of two siblings who were allegedly mauled by a different pack of pit bulls in the same area in August 2011. Then, both children were injured, with one suffering life-threatening injuries. When deputies arrived on scene in 2011, one of the dogs was shot and killed after it approached them in an aggressive fashion. Three more pit bulls were later captured and euthanized.

Katie Riehle said the dogs involved in the latest incident are owned by the same person who owned the dogs that allegedly attacked her two youngest children.

District 1 Supervisor and Board Vice President John Montgomery said he has also been in contact with Katie Riehle. Both Trainer and Montgomery said they plan to speak with Riehle and gather any information possible to present the issue at a future board of supervisors meeting.

Supervisors passed a vicious dog ordinance in November 2011 authorizing the destruction of a dog provided two of four requirements were met: “The dog is running at large or not properly confined; there is no ownership identification tag on the dog’s collar; there is no vaccination tag around the dog’s neck; and attempts to peacefully capture the dog have been made but were unsuccessful.”

Another provision of the ordinance states that any dog who causes injury or death “shall be immediately confiscated and thereafter destroyed in an expeditious and humane manner.” The ordinance does not mandate keeping dogs on a leash and does not apply to people who are not physically injured in an altercation.

Katie Riehle said language should be added to the ordinance to include the destruction of dogs who have been known to consistently display threatening behavior, even if no injury is reported.

“Because (Zeniff Riehle) wasn’t dead or bleeding, there’s nothing (Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department or Animal Control) can do about it,” Katie Riehle said. “The law (the board) enacted doesn’t apply unless somebody is actually injured.”

Penalties for owners are $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second and $100 for the third and subsequent offenses. In addition, the ordinance states, the court may require up to 100 of community service. Katie Riehle said those penalties should be more strict.

“It’s costing the person being attacked much more than $25 to deal with that. It’s not even proportional,” she said.

Montgomery said the board always seeks to make safety a top priority for its constituents and needs to consider revisiting the ordinance.

“When somebody is threatened by dogs, we need to be proactive and look into it. I’ve got two children myself and I wouldn’t want anything like that to happen to anybody, especially children,” he said. “This is something myself and other board members need to look at and come up with something that works well for everybody and keeps everybody safe. We can be reactive and let something happen or try to do the best we can to solve it in the front end.”

Trainer expressed similar concerns.

“We are definitely concerned about this situation and need to see what we can do to resolve it,” Trainer said. “I need to pull that statute and address it at the next board meeting to see what we need to do. We need to take action before this gets even worse than it already is.”

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