Chattanooga City Council debates animal ordinance changes

Chattanooga City Council debates animal ordinance changes

September 19th, 2012 by Cliff Hightower in News

Chattanooga City Council member Jack Benson.

Chattanooga City Council member Jack Benson.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.


The City Council approved 9-0 Tuesday night a contract with Friends of the Festival to run events at the 21st Century Waterfront. The city will pay Friends of the Festival a total of $40,000. This includes all events except Riverbend, which is a separate contract.

A longtime councilman and the city attorney dueled Tuesday afternoon during a City Council meeting about how permits for animal regulations should be handled by the city.

City Councilman Jack Benson said he disagreed with an interpretation that the city's animal shelter should not be issuing the permits because other municipalities in the state used the same practice.

"I'd like to know how Knoxville is doing this," he said.

City Attorney Mike McMahan said he would check with Knoxville, but with one caveat.

"I'd still say they're wrong and I am right," he said.

The city is in the midst of revamping all of its animal ordinance. Assistant City Attorney Melinda Foster presented the proposed ordinance to the council. The ordinance is expected to be voted on in a few weeks.

Foster highlighted several changes made within the ordinance. The changes include outlawing poisonous and exotic snakes, such as boa constrictors. It also would remove a section of the ordinance allowing goats to be used for kudzu fighting.

McMahan said poisonous and exotic snakes need to be outlawed because they can become nuisances. He said the goat portion of the ordinance needed to change because it didn't work out when coyotes started attacking the goats.

"The one time they tried using goats it was a failure," he said.

But the majority of the council's discussion revolved around how permits should be issued for regulatory purposes. McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center currently issues these types of permits that go to businesses such as breeders, kennel operators and pet dealers.

McMahan said he studied state law and his opinion is that the shelter should not be issuing the permits and they should instead be issued by a separate board similar to the Beer and Wrecker Board.

He said the state does not allow a nonprofit to have authority over governmental operations. McMahan said he would research further about how other cities are issuing permits.

In other news, Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, visited the City Council's regularly scheduled business meeting. A proclamation was made in his honor.

Gandhi told those in the audience he hoped to establish a Gandhi Global Center for Nonviolence within Chattanooga.

"I'm going to help make it possible," he said.