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One last plea for breeder’s permit

My Opinion
Ross Schulz, Staff Writer

By now it may be too late to change the minds of Harrison County Commissioners George Ethridge and Kenny Saulman. But I think the issue of animal control is important enough to give it one more shot.
I’ve attended all or most of the meetings and special meetings this year, as well as the previous couple of years, where animal control, or lack thereof, in the county has been addressed. The problem starts ‘ and stops ‘ with overpopulation that causes unsafe situations throughout the county and the animal shelter facility to be full and maintain an endless line of euthanized dogs and cats.
That shouldn’t happen in Harrison County, a county rich with riverboat resources. It’s not just for the poor dogs or cats that are killed, but also for those county employees who have to do it day after day after day. Not to mention the money it costs to do so and to run the facility in general.
The main argument against the breeder’s permit law is that we already have an ordinance in place that covers most of the issues discussed. While that’s true, there’s one big problem with the ordinance already in place: Nothing in the ordinance can be enforced because, for the most part, none of it can be proven in a court of law, short of having time-stamped detailed photos of the dog neglect and abuse (or whatever the infraction may be). I don’t think the county has the funding to set up cameras throughout the county to catch at-large dogs in action. Realizing this, Animal Control Officer Bruce LaHue needed to come up with a way to penalize irresponsible pet owners. This is the exact problem the breeder’s permit aimed to face and solve. It would give validity ‘ or teeth ‘ to the ordinance already in place.
For example, with the current ordinance that you plan to keep in place and raise the fine money amount, an irresponsible pet owner could let his or her dog run loose, impregnate a stray female and those puppies could wind up uncared for or dropped off on the side of the road. LaHue could ask that irresponsible pet owner if his/her dog, now safely in the home, ran loose (ordinance violation). And what do you think irresponsible pet owner would say? I doubt if he/she will admit it, and there’s no way LaHue can prove it; therefore, there’s no way to fine irresponsible pet owner. LaHue could still give irresponsible pet owner a fine, but, without proof, it would never hold up in court. The fines could be raised from whatever they are now to $1 million, but it still wouldn’t change a thing. Irresponsible pet owner continues doing what he/she has been doing, and the problem throughout the county persists. Irresponsible pet owner wins.
Now, if the breeder’s permit was allowed to go into effect (it was unanimously approved last year by the board of commissioners), all LaHue would have to do is ask irresponsible pet owner if he had a breeder’s permit ordinance for his/her dog that has not been neutered. No? Boom, fine handed down, case closed, slam dunk. Irresponsible pet owner thinks twice about letting dog run loose, there’s one less problem dog in the county and the county begins to see progress. Irresponsible pet owner loses.
Another argument made at the most recent meeting when it was decided to start the process of repealing the breeder’s permit ordinance was that state law prohibits what the ordinance says, so it would be an ‘illegal’ ordinance to enforce and residents could sue the county over it. Not true. Any city, town or county within the state can implement laws, ordinances or regulations more strict than the state laws and be perfectly within its right to do so for its city, town or county. It cannot, however, implement laws that are less strict than state laws.
And finally, the last, and strongest, argument against the breeder’s permit law is that it creates an added burden to the taxpayers and law-abiding residents to have to register for a free breeder’s permit.
A man at the last meeting explained his situation with a dog, neither spayed nor neutered, at home that just sits in the house and watches TV all day, causing no harm to anyone. He said he shouldn’t have to go out of his way to get a permit for that. And I agree. Here’s my advice to him, and other law-abiding responsible pet owners if the breeder’s permit was implemented: don’t get the permit. Go about doing what you’ve always done as a responsible pet owner and you’ll never hear or see animal control. Animal control doesn’t care about you; you are not the problem. Are you breaking the law by not having a breeder’s permit and owning a dog that’s not spayed or neutered? Technically, yes, but you are also breaking the law when you go one mile per hour over the speed limit.
This is how the breeder’s permit was presented last year to the commissioners, where it received unanimously support.
It just takes one of you to vote to advertise the ordinance and let it come into law. You could even put a sunset clause for it to end after a certain time period. That would, at least, give animal control a good time frame to see if the breeder’s permit law helps, as it has in other areas of the country.
Obviously, the current system is not working. What’s the harm in trying?