City leaders agreed to review Van Buren’s 2007 dog ordinance following a passionate plea by a woman who watched as her dog was mauled and killed by three other dogs that were allowed to run loose in her neighborhood.
Debbie Guise appeared before Van Buren City Council members on Monday night to ask for help in what she sees as an “ever increasing problem in our community of dogs and other animals running loose in our neighborhoods.”
Guise told the story of her small pet dog, Annie, who was viciously attacked and killed by a pack of dogs in her front yard on April 22.
“Imagine my horror as I stood by helplessly as a dog who was genetically inclined to fight and kill other animals mangled and destroyed my pet right in front of my eyes,” she said. “Now imagine if I were a grieving parent standing in front of you demanding to know why my attorney and I should not be holding this city morally, financially and ethically responsible for the mauling, maiming or even worse, the death of a precious child.”
Council member Darral Sparkman asked Mayor Bob Freeman what the city could do.
Freeman said the city had revised its code in 2007 to address vicious dogs.
“The ordinance states they must be put up,” he said. “But, unfortunately some get loose.”
Police Chief Jamie Hammond said the ordinance includes a long list of what owners of dogs termed as vicious must do.
“However, these dogs will act how the owners train them to act,” he said.
When considering how to update Van Buren’s 2007 ordinance, vouncil member Jim Petty suggested looking at what other cities are doing.
“We need to find a way we can put owners on notice,” Petty said.
Freeman said city leaders and council members will review the ordinance and bring it before the public at the June 25 meeting.
Guise said each day about 1,000 people in the United States require emergency care treatment for serious dog bite injuries. She said 39 dog bite-related fatalities occurred in 2017.
“Ninety-two percent of the fatal attacks are attributed to one of four breeds or a mixed breed usually consisting of at least one part of the four breeds referenced,” Guise said. “One breed alone is responsible for 74 percent of the fatal attacks with children and elderly suffering the most.”
She noted the recent mauling of a 4-year-old boy in West Fork in Washington County.
Guise said she hoped the council can adopt an ordinance with breed-specific rules and regulations to deal with the problem as 40 other communities in Arkansas have done.
“A commitment to better enforce the laws already in place would be a great start to helping to address the issue,” she said.