Tightening the leash: BV will crack down on vicious animal ordinance

Friday, August 4, 2017

Mayor Tim McKinney announced at the Berryville City Council meeting Tuesday that the city will begin strictly enforcing the vicious animal ordinance.

He cited recent incidents of dogs biting people in the city as the reason for tightening the leash on the ordinance.

“We passed a vicious dog ordinance a while back. We’re going to start enforcing that very strictly,” McKinney said. “We had some incidents in town where people have gotten bit. In one incident, a child was bitten. We’ve been kid of lax, but we’re going to start enforcing it for the safety of our citizens.”

He said there was one incident in July near George’s Pond where a woman was bitten by a dog.

“If it had been a kid that walked up in that yard, I don’t know if the kid would be alive,” McKinney said. “We have given that person notice that their animal has been declared a ‘vicious animal.’ ”

A Berryville Police Department report says Wilma Villines, 63, of Green Forest was bitten by a dog at 402 Monte Vista Ave. in Berryville on the afternoon of Saturday, July 22.

The report says Villines was visiting a friend next door and had gone to the home at 402 Monte Vista with some mail that had been delivered to the wrong address.

“When Wilma approached the residence she was bitten by a dog that was tied to the front porch,” Berryville Police Officer Cody Boren says in the report. “She was bit on the right leg and on the right side of her face.”

Boren’s report says she was taken to Mercy Hospital in a private vehicle.

According to Boren’s report, Villines had “apparent minor injury.” Villines said she suffered a broken pelvis and a hairline crack in her hip, as well as needing stitches in her face and knee. She said the dog is a pit bull.

“I can’t even walk,” she said.

In Boren’s report, the officer says he spoke with Jim Sigmon, whose brother Donald W. Sigmon lives at 402 Monte Vista and was bedridden at the time of the report. Boren writes that he explained the process of quarantining an animal to Sigmon. Boren’s report noted that “there was a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign posted in plain view on the front of the residence.”

Villines said Thursday that the dog “did have a long rope on him, or a long chain or whatever,” but that didn’t prevent him from attacking her. She also said there was a “faded out” Beware of Dog sign at the time of the incident and that others have since been added.

McKinney said Thursday that the city has notified Sigmon that the dog is considered a vicious animal and must comply with certain conditions.

“He’ll have to have a six-sided pen and a muzzle when he’s outside on a leash,” the mayor said.

Villines said Thursday that the dog is still being walked without a muzzle.

“None of this has even stopped since this happened to me,” she said. “Why is this person getting away with having a vicious animal in an area where there are kids and elderly people and all kinds of other people?”

Donald Sigmon said Thursday that the dog is “a good dog.”

“People just walk up and spook him,” he said. “I just wish people would walk up to a dog and talk to him like they know him. He’s fed good. He’s not that hungry.”

Sigmon said Villines was “trying to do something nice” by bringing mail that was delivered to the wrong address.

“I just wish the postal service … if them guys had delivered the mail to the right address, none of this would have happened,” he said.

McKinney said the city is monitoring the situation and that city personnel have not seen the dog outside.

“We haven’t staked it out, but we make it a point to go by there every now and then,” he said.

Under Title VI Chapter 6.04 of the Berryville Municipal Code regarding Animal Control Regulations, a vicious dog or vicious animal is defined as any dog or other animal that has bitten or attempted to bite any person, or caused serious injury to another domestic animal or livestock without provocation and is able or likely to inflict injury to another person.

Almost every case of a “vicious animal” in the city has involved a pit bull, McKinney said.

“I know there are some good pit bulls out there, but, if my little dog Lilly goes psycho and bites someone, they’re going to live over it,” he said. “A pit bull is a different story, so we’re going to start enforcing that ordinance.”

A dog does not have to bite someone to be declared a “vicious animal,” McKinney said. They just have to demonstrate aggressive behavior toward people, he said.

“We all love dogs, but I think we all love our kids a little bit more. Kids are going to take a walk where they want. They’ll cut across people’s yard because that’s what kids do,” he said. “I think it’s just a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Donnie Warren told the council that a neighbor on College Avenue is keeping about 18 cats in her house. The cats have scratched up neighbors’ property, he said, and the smell is getting so bad that people are complaining.

Alderwoman Cindy George pointed out that the city has an ordinance saying people can have only three animals in their house.

“So she is way in violation,” George said.

“I didn’t realize it had gotten to this point,” McKinney said, “but we’ll take care of it.”

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15, at City Hall.

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