Fifty percent to 75 percent of Chattanooga’s 311 calls come from residents concerned about menacing dogs, city officials say.
To combat the problem, the City Council’s Legal and Legislative Committee approved a motion Tuesday to recommend an amendment to its dangerous dog ordinance.
“I think this is really one of the most serious problems for neighborhoods in the city of Chattanooga,” Councilman Dan Page said.
The proposed ordinance, which will be presented to the full council, defines a menacing dog as “any dog that would cause a person being chased or approached to reasonably believe that that dog would cause physical injury to that person.”
Any dog deemed menacing then could be classified as “potentially dangerous” or “dangerous.” Its owner could be subjected to penalties, including paying for obedience school, paying an annual license fee and providing specific tags designating a dog as dangerous or potentially dangerous.
A dog can be classified as potentially dangerous if, without being provoked, it has chased or approached a person in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack in the last 18 months, said Valerie Malueg from the city attorney’s office. A dangerous dog is classified as such after it has shown two forms of menacing or attack behavior in the last 18 months, according to the city code.
“The animal services officer must have some type of probable cause to believe this has occurred,” Ms. Malueg said.
Once probable cause is determined, a citation can be issued, and a judge will make a ruling in City Court. A dog can be impounded until the hearing, according to the code.
Councilman Leamon Pierce asked if certain dogs known for their aggressive behavior — such as Rottweilers — could be banned, but he was told no.
“The only time we’re going to get control is after a dog attacks someone,” Mr. Pierce said.
Committee Chairman Jack Benson also asked about menacing coyotes, wondering whether it was legal to shoot coyotes in the city. Coyotes have begun spreading into Chattanooga, including into residential yards and the downtown area, he said.
“Every city in this country talks about the problem that they have” with coyotes,” Mr. Benson said. “No city has found a successful way other than shooting.”
City Attorney Randy Nelson said it is legal to shoot coyotes in the city because an ordinance banning the firing of guns inside city limits was repealed several decades ago. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled it would constitute double jeopardy to cite a person in city court for firing a gun and then convict them of another crime committed with the gun.
“There is nothing that precludes them from shooting coyotes in the city,” Mr. Nelson said.