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Pit bull ordinance repealed

By Staff, 05/18/21 9:50 AM

PRESCOTT – There is no longer an ordinance dealing specifically with pit bulls.

The Prescott City Council, at its May meeting Monday night, voted to repeal the pit bull ordinance and amend the existing vicious animal ordinance to exclude service animals, but include cats.

The ordinance was tabled from the April meeting because the council couldn’t agree on how much time a pit bull should be held, wanting there to be no holding time to allow owners to get their animals and find a way to keep them out of town. Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver said the city had been in contact with Nashville’s animal control officer and city attorney on the matter.

Bruce Bean, office manager at City Hall, said the way the proposed ordinance was worded would make Nashville responsible for the animals and this is something they weren’t willing to accept, though the Nashville people did suggest to increase the fine to $800 and court costs.

Councilman Jerry Hightower said he had no problem with dogs being held three days, but added there needed to be a stipulation for service animals for those who have pit bulls as their service animals.

This set things off. Councilman Ivory Curry said if that’s done then there’s no pit bull ordinance. Hightower countered saying the city already has a vicious dog ordinance.

Councilman Howard Austin didn’t agree with increasing the fine from $250 to $800, saying the city pays Nashville for this service and he can’t see where they can tell Prescott how it should do things as it’s the council’s decision.

City Attorney Glenn Vasser said Nashville doesn’t want the responsibility transferred to them because they don’t want to get involved with litigation. He pointed out the city can’t take a person’s service animal.

From there, the discussion became circuitous with the council pretty much saying the same thing, but, apparently, with no one listening to anyone else. At one point, Councilman Susie Meeks said if a dog is running loose it should be put to sleep.

Officers Colby Tillman and Alex Gamble, with the Prescott Police Department, were asked about the situation. Both agreed there’s no one specific breed causing problems in town, but there is a dog problem in Prescott. Gamble flat out said the problem isn’t with the dogs, but with people, adding he has a pit bull of his own, and the vicious dogs in Prescott are mostly mutts. Tillman agreed, adding the problem is stray dogs.

The 1990 ordinance on vicious animals was brought out, with the section on vicious dogs read. It states a vicious dog is any dog with the disposition to attack or endanger the safety of people or other animals, attacks people or other animals without provocation, has been so trained or is used for fighting. The ordinance does not specify any breed, but includes all breeds. City Clerk Robert Loe said the vicious dog ordinance casts a wide blanket.

He also read a section of the 2002 ordinance concerning animal control regulations. It states animals must have collars, be vaccinated against rabies with a tag displayed showing the vaccination, and dogs aren’t allowed to run at large. It also states it’s a violation for dogs that disturb the peace, are abandoned, unchained or destroy property, trespass in a dangerous way, have vicious habits, molest passersby on public streets or are kept in unsanitary conditions. This ordinance carries a fine up to $100 and court costs.

In the end, the council agreed to repeal the pit bull ordinance and amend the 1990 ordinance to exclude service animals, but include cats, with a fine ranging from $50 to $500, with the animals to be held a maximum of three days.

The council wasted no time in approving a resolution allowing Pafford Medical Services to assume the contract from the Nevada County Ambulance Service and provide ambulance service to the people of Prescott and Nevada County.

Officer Tillman addressed the council, saying he hadn’t been given a raise after completing his probationary period as a detective with the PPD. Tillman was named detective on Aug. 2020 after Cody Ferguson left to join the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office. Tillman said Ferguson had received a raise after completing his probation, but he’d been denied.

Tillman told the council he’d requested information under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, but didn’t get everything he asked for. According to him, some of the documentation wasn’t in the files. He asked to be given a raise of $1.37 an hour with back pay to when his probation ended on Feb. 6, 2021. He said he works anywhere from 50-72 hours a week, takes care of evidence, keeps up with sex offenders, writes step grants, something done by the previous chief,  is on the 8th Judicial District Task Force, and patrols the city.

With this being a personnel matter, the council went into executive session to discuss the situation. In the end, it was determined Tillman will get a pay raise, as will Gamble, and the two will negotiate the amount with the mayor at a later date.