The City Commission in Etowah, Tenn., approved an ordinance banning pit bulls by a 3-2 vote at its meeting Monday night, despite a campaign by pit bull owners against the measure.
The ordinance, which the City Commission already approved once in a first reading, singles out pit bulls as a particularly dangerous breed with a strong fighting and chase instinct. Some of the characteristics that make them dangerous, according to the ordinance, include a diminished tendency to warn they're going to attack, a tendency to "fight to the death" and to tear flesh "which has resulted in grotesque injuries to human victims."
Commissioners who voted for the pit bull ban were Mayor Jim Bull, Vice Mayor Matt Goodin and Commissioner Jim Swayne. Opposing the ban were Commissioners Dennis Morgan and Burke Garwood.
Under the ordinance, City Code Enforcement Officer Dave Mason said, "Any new dogs coming in are banned."
The ordinance grandfathers-in existing pit bulls. But owners would have to take a variety of steps, including registering animals with identifying photos, posting "beware of dog" signs, obtaining $100,000 in liability insurance, keeping the dogs muzzled on short leashes when outside of the home and keeping them confined indoors or in a locked pen or kennel at home.
Under the ban, any puppies born to registered dogs would have to be removed from city limits within six weeks.
Etowah resident Sherri Cooper led the campaign against the ordinance, including creating a Facebook page, "Stop Etowah TN from Banning Pit Bulls" that had 1,066 "likes" as of Monday afternoon.
"It's singling out one breed, and it's not a breed problem. It's how you raise your dog," Cooper said. "What this is, this is taking the good dogs and the good owners and it's punishing them."
She and her husband, Scott, own two pit bulls, Rocky and Sugar.
"They're just big babies," Cooper said.
Her pit bulls were playing with children and other dogs at a pro-pit bull walk in downtown Etowah on Friday night that Cooper helped organize.
"We had 30 dogs at the walk, most of them from town," she said.
Cooper hoped that, instead of banning pit bulls, the City Commission would approve an alternative ordinance that isn't breed-specific to pit bulls and applies restrictions only to dogs that are deemed vicious through a process spelled out in the ordinance.
While the proposed pit bull ban generated a lot of interest, the City Commission planned only to hear comments from four people -- two from each side of the issue -- to prevent Monday night's meeting from lasting for hours.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at email@example.com or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.