BERRYVILLE -- Mayor Tim McKinney has proposed making it illegal to chain a dog to a stationary object within the city limits.
At a city council meeting Monday night, the mayor said he felt the practice was "abusive" and "cruel." He added that tethered dogs were more likely to be hyper-territorial and react violently to wayward children who venture into their domain, say, to retrieve a prized baseball (a la' The Sandlot).
The prohibition would not extend to those animals chained to a trolley system or a sliding tether.
The recommendation was only one of several changes to the city's animal control laws proposed by McKinney at Tuesday's meeting. His ideas were well-received by council members, though no vote was taken.
Editor's Note: To read the full text of the city's existing animal control regulations, as well as the proposed changes, refer to the online version of this article, at www.carrollconews.com.
The mayor's other recommendations included creating a two-tiered system for problem dogs, formalizing the process for dealing with such animals, eliminating the annual license-renewal fee for pets that have been spayed or neutered, and revoking pet-ownership privileges for repeat offenders.
Existing city code define a vicious animal as one that has "inflicted injury on a human being without provocation" or has been found dangerous by the animal control officer or police.
The mayor has proposed altering the code to distinguish between those animals that have merely been "found dangerous" and those that have actually caused injury, with different penalties for each.
Under the proposed rule, an animal would be considered "dangerous" if it were to threaten, attack, or chase a person or another domesticated animal.
"We're not gonna say your poodle is vicious because it barks at someone walking by," the mayor said.
Dangerous animals are to be confined in a locked enclosure and only released if restrained by a leash and muzzle.
Those animals that have actually caused injury, on the other hand, would be deemed "vicious" and either removed from the city or euthanized.
The mayor's proposal would maintain existing appeals procedures, which give the owners of an accused dog three days to appeal the designation in municipal court.
In addition to changing the laws relating to problem animals, the mayor has proposed eliminating the annual license renewal fee for pets that have been spayed or neutered.
Existing law requires all domesticated dogs or cats over 6 months of age to be licensed by the city on an annual basis.
The licensing fee is currently $7.50 for spayed or neutered animals and $20 for unaltered pets. McKinney has suggested instead charging a one-time license fee of $10 for altered animals, as long as the owners can show their rabies vaccinations are up to date. The fee for unaltered animals would remain unchanged.
McKinney has also suggested prohibiting pet owners who violate animal control laws three or more times in five years from owning pets -- for a period of up to one year.
In related business, McKinney told council members Tuesday that the city was nearing the end of its contract with Go East Young Dog, and suggested council members might consider offering more support to the organization when the contract comes up for renewal later this year.
The organization took over operation of the city pound in 2012, with the goal of making it a no-kill facility.
"They're doing a good job of accomplishing their goal," McKinney said, "... but they're also facing a much bigger task than they had anticipated."
He pointed out that the pound was obligated to accept any animals that were brought to it.
"When we come up there and there's ... a 12-year-old, three-legged labrador retriever with mange, we have to take it," he said. "We don't have that choice to reject that animal."
In the last year, the mayor said, the organization had taken in more than 200 dogs, but struggled to find homes for all of them.
"I think we need to support those people in their efforts in any way we can," he concluded
In other business, council members:
* Agreed to allow the Carroll County Historical Society to use the Public Square for their Night at the Museum event, to be held from 5 until 9 p.m. on May 4.
* Proclaimed May National Preservation and Arkansas Heritage Month.
Council members will meet again at 6 p.m. on May 7 at Berryville City Hall, located at 305 E. Madison St. For more information, call 870-423-4414.