Animal Control Ordinance

Hattiesburg is considering a new Animal Control Ordinance which could adopt new definitions for potentially dangerous dog, dangerous dog, and vicious dog.

CORRECTION: Hattiesburg city officials are working to update a 1982 animal control ordinance, and hope to have those changes ready for a vote at the City Council’s Aug. 6 meeting. An earlier Impact story incorrectly said the ordinance to be presented is a new ordinance.

Joe Paul, the city’s customer service coordinator, has two goals in mind for updating the current ordinance: enforce the humane treatment and care of animals and provide for the safety of humans and pets. Paul said anyone who wants to comment on the ordinance update can call 601-545-4501.

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A new Hattiesburg animal control ordinance could be ready for a vote in time for the City Council’s Aug. 6 meeting, but Joe Paul is not as concerned about the timing of the ordinance. He wants to make sure it is all-inclusive.

Paul, the city’s customer service coordinator, is working to revitalize the 1982 ordinance with two goals in mind: enforce the humane treatment and care of animals and provide for the safety of humans and pets.

“We have done a lot of research on the subject,” he said. “What I really want to say is that anyone who hears about this, we really encourage feedback over the last four or five weeks. They can call City Hall, ask for Joe Paul or anybody else. We want to hear from them.”

Having the ordinance ready by August is Paul’s goal, but he wants the best animal control ordinance, not the fastest.

Joe Paul, Customer Service Coordinator

Customer Service Coordinator Joe Paul

“Depending on the feedback, we hope to have the ordinance ready in August,” he said. “However, if it takes more time to get some active amount of input from our citizens, we’ll push that back.”

Paul offered preliminary revisions in the current ordinance in several areas, including classifications of dangerous dogs, penalties for having a vicious animal, limitations on keeping pets, and defining a habitual animal offender.

Significant proposed changes in the ordinance are adding the definition of a potentially dangerous dog, an animal that could escalate to a dangerous dog, then vicious dog. A vicious dog could be impounded and if found irrevocable would be put to rest. If not irrevocable, it could be moved out of the city limits.

Municipal Court fines could be no more than $100, restitution to the victim, and other violations related to infractions. Animal Control officers would be placed officially under the police department, where they operate now.

Kennels, breeding services and other animal-related businesses would be allowed only in zoned areas and not in residential districts. Second-offense violations would increase from $20-$50.

The proposed ordinance calls for no more than six pets per household, and the animals cannot be kept in an area that is within 120 feet from an eating establishment. Anyone with more than three dogs must have them no more than 120 feet from their neighbors or businesses. An exception would be newborn puppies.

Each dog must have adequate space to live, which would be 2 square feet for every pound of the animal.

A habitual animal offender was defined as anyone who has received at least three citations in the past 24 months in animal-related violations. Punishment would be restricting or prohibiting owning a pet for no more than one year.

Paul said he realizes several people will be emotionally involved in the discussion.

“This is very important to a lot of people,” he said. “(How people care about animals) is a critical balance with animal owners, animal lovers, and those who care about the welfare of animals versus securing other property owner’s rights to reasonable privacy. But, there are challenges on both sides.”

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