Dog bite case leads to talk of lenient judge

Dog bite case leads to talk of lenient judge
By DONNA RYDER
Associate Editor
It all started with a case where a dog bit a child and led into discussion of what is perceived to be an uncooperative city judge.
Union City city council members Tuesday night heard there is a case of a dog which broke free from its chain and bit a child playing on a trampoline.
Councilman Dianne Eskew said this is the third time this particular dog has been know to bite a child.
Councilman Danny Leggett said veterinarian records have been checked and the dog has its current shots. He said the problem is the case goes to city court and it is the city judge who is responsible for confirming the dog is considered “vicious.”
“I don’t see why it would be up to the judge to say whether the dog is vicious or not because he might not know,” Councilman Billy Jack “B.J.” Cranford said, with councilman Johnny Bacon replying, “Expose him to the dog.”
Police Chief Joe Garner said the case goes before the court this month and if the dog is deemed to be vicious, then special enclosure requirements will go into effect.
“There are some other factors and we don’t know how the judge will rule,” the chief said. “The dog initially was on a chain but was strong enough to break that chain.”
Cranford asked if the city could consider certain breeds as “vicious dogs” and require a bond. Some cities in the surrounding area are doing this, he said.
City manager Kathy Dillon said bonds are “good in theory … but what do we do when they don’t comply.”
She said violators could be cited and brought into court, but “we just don’t have that option right now. We can bring them to court but we don’t always have cooperation with the court.”
“As we discussed in one of our last conversations a couple of weeks ago do we really want to keep adopting ordinances that we can’t enforce or that we don’t get support on. It’s just more paperwork,” she said.
“Maybe we should do away with the ordinances if we’re not going to get them enforced,” Cranford said.
But Bacon said, “Maybe we just need to do something about who enforces them .. the lack of enforcement, not the police department.”
Ms. Dillon said she has been in contact with sister-city Elizabethton. Officials there said they understand what the city is going through because they have experienced it themselves, but their elected system is working for them right now. She said she has asked them if they would entertain a charter change, but she has not heard back from them since last week.
Mayor Terry Hailey said what they’ve done in the past is make it optional when Union City has wanted a charter change.
Ms. Dillon said she has seen over and over again, whether it is with the police department or codes enforcement, that the city does not get the support it needs.
Bacon said “a lot of our guys get a bad rep because of that.”
Associate Editor Donna Ryder can be contacted by email at dryder@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 4.18.12

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