Rogersville residents ask BMA to drop ban on pit bulls

Jeff Bobo • May 10, 2018 at 9:28 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Several pit bull owners attended Tuesday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting to ask the city to lift a pit bull ban which had actually been approved in 1982, but apparently was forgotten for decades.

The 36-year-old pit bull ban was brought to the public’s attention last month when the BMA was asked to approve a revision of its animal control ordinance adding a definition for all domesticated animals, not just dogs and cats.

As part of that definition, the revised ordinance identifies the banned breed as being at least 50 percent pit bull, which would have to be verified by a vet.

Why ban pit bulls in Rogersville?

City Attorney Bill Phillips noted that the pit bull ban was enacted by the BMA in 1982 in response to a rash of attacks by pit bulls in East Tennessee and other parts of the country.

The revised ordinance was on Tuesday’s agenda  — its second of the required readings.

A resident of Boyd Street Apartments told the BMA that when the ordinance was publicized last month, she was contacted by her landlord, who stated that “if the ban passes,” she would be required to remove her dogs or move.

She told the board that would be like asking her to give up her children because she doesn’t have children.

“They’re on a harness, they’re on a leash every time, they’re never outside alone by themselves, they’re not aggressive, they’re not violent. It hasn’t been enforced. Now that it’s been in the paper — if we have to move, we’re homeless.”

Phillips noted that in order to rescind the pit bull ban, an alderman would have to introduce a new ordinance at a later meeting.

Are pit bulls more aggressive than other dogs?

Hawkins County Humane Society board member Dave Toll told the BMA that pit bulls brought to the shelter on average are more friendly than other large dogs.

There are currently three pit bulls at the HCHS, and shelter manager Sandy Behnke told the Times News that all three are friendly to both people and other animals and would make good household pets.

Behnke said pit bulls, like any breed, become dangerous only when mistreated or trained to fight.  

The shelter puts down dangerous, aggressive dogs. Toll informed the BMA that over the past year and a half, the shelter has euthanized six aggressive dogs, but only one was a pit bull mix.

“I canvassed all our shelter board members and people who work there, and the large consensus is that it’s not breed-specific. It depends on how the dog is taken care of. You can find pit bulls that are very vicious, but the dog level determines if it’s going to bite, not the breed level.”

A Rogersville woman told the BMA, “When it comes to being breed-specific, I think it comes down to the owners and holding people accountable for their pets. ... The only dog listed in there is a pit bull dog, and I think really, there are other dogs that have been issues. I know it was like (1982) when that was put in, but I would like to have that considered to be taken out and look for other ways to hold owners accountable for how their dogs behave.”

The second reading of the revised animal control ordinance was approved 6-0.

Seeking a dog park grant

In unrelated business, the BMA heard a report from Sells that the city has a good chance of receiving a grant for the installation of a dog park.

The BMA agreed that if the grant is approved and the city moves forward with the project, Rogersville will use the old skateboard park location in the northeast corner of the City Park.

A new street fair in Rogersville

In other business Tuesday, the BMA agreed to close Main Street on Saturday, June 9 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to host an “inspired market” with 10-25 street vendors.

The Rogersville Arts Council, which canceled the Appalachian Spring Festival scheduled for last Saturday due to the threat of stormy weather, will also host street entertainment and food trucks that day to make up for the May 5 event and to fulfill the requirements of an arts grant.

No bids to demolish historic house

City Recorder Glen Hutchins told the BMA that the city had received no bids to tear down the historic Blue Spring House and salvage the building material on Main Street at the City Park entrance. The BMA agreed to advertise for bids for a simple demolition with no conditions.


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