By Lee Weyhrich
The Clay City Council on Monday passed a “vicious dog” ordinance, virtually banning pit bulls in city limits.
Existing pit bull dogs, or any of their variations, must be registered with the city, no new pits may be brought into the city, and any newborn pit puppies will need to be removed from the city limits within a certain amount of time.
These dog breeds must be confined indoors or kept in a locked, outside pen. If taken for a walk, the dogs must be leashed and muzzled at all times. Within 10 days of registration, owners must post “Beware of Dog” signs in easily seen locations on their property.
Owners are also required to carry $50,000 in public liability insurance for their pets. In case of the death of a pet, the birth of puppies or a change of address within the city limits, owners have 10 days to notify city officials.
Violators of this ordinance will face between $200 and $500 in fines as well as up to 30 days in jail.
Last Tuesday, Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale was confronted in his front yard by four dogs described as acting aggressive and looking like pit bull breeds, said Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Randy Christian. Hale fired a warning shot in the ground and then a second shot containing “bird shot” that grazed one dog, Christian said.
“That turned them away,” Christian said. “Animal control was called to the scene and took control of the dogs that at the time were still roaming the neighborhood. The owner was identified and is facing a charge of allowing dogs to run at large.”
This incident prompted the city council to pass the ordinance.
“I think the city leaders just used this incident as an example of the need for it,” Christian said.
The council also voted 3-2 to establish fishing regulations at Cosby Lake, with a vote split due to the inclusion of a firearms restriction that one councilman, Mark Halstead, believes might be another cobblestone on the road to Second Amendment violation. Halstead and Councilman Kevin Small voted no.
Halstead and Small both disagreed with the wording of the second section of the new regulation. “It shall be unlawful for any person to possess a firearm while operating a boat or as a passenger in a boat, unless said person is a designated law enforcement officer engaged in the fulfillment of his or her duties,” the contested phrase states.
“I do not agree with Section 2 of this,” Halstead said. “I’m a very big NRA (National Rifle Association) supporter. I am a big supporter of Second Amendment rights. Slowly but surely our rights are going to be taken away from us.”
Dixon said the inclusion of the firearms addendum is a matter of context. The carrying of firearms in public parks is already restricted due to an earlier city ordinance from several years ago, which was in turn a restatement of federal law, he added.
The language of Section 2, he asserts, is to keep people from “hunting” fish with firearms in the park and is, in this way, an extension of Section 1, which states only traditional hook and line fishing is allowed. No jug fishing, trot line fishing, limb line fishing or other method of unattended line fishing is permitted.
The ordinance would continue to ban these methods of fishing even if Alabama’s proposed “universal open carry” bill is eventually adopted, which would otherwise allow carry within the park.
Section 3 states only the city government may authorize fishing tournaments, while Section 4 lays out fines for violation of the new law. The first violation is $100, second is $200 and each subsequent violation will be $300.