City of Oxford proposes amendment to vicious dog ordinance

Published 11:55 am Monday, August 10, 2020

The City of Oxford is proposing a change to an ordinance that would define a “vicious dog” and what owners of such dogs would have to do in order to keep them.

During the Board of Aldermen meeting on Aug. 4, a first reading of a proposal to amend an ordinance was held. A public hearing and a second reading, along with a possible vote, will take place during the Board’s Aug. 18 meeting.

The proposal would amend Chapter 18, Article III, Sections 18-71, and 18-78 through 18-81 Code Of Ordinances of the City of Oxford –Animals and Fowl.

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The ordinance defines a vicious dog as “any dog with a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack without provocation, to cause injury to, or to otherwise threaten or endanger the safety of human beings, pets, or domesticated animals.” Any dog that “bites, inflicts injury, assaults, or otherwise attacks a human being, pet or domesticated animal without provocation,” is also another way a dog could be defined as “vicious.”

The reason for the potential change in the ordinance is due to a recent incident where a resident’s dog was attacked by a group of dogs on a neighboring property. The dogs were behind an electric fence, but other animals and children can access the yard.

Any owner whose dog is defined as “vicious,” which under the proposed ordinance would be determined by a Municipal Court judge after a complaint is filed with the Oxford Police Department, must adhere to the requirements proposed in the amended ordinance. An owner will still be allowed to appeal the judge’s ruling.

All “vicious” dogs must be secured indoors, but if the dog lives outdoors it must be confined in a secured enclosure where the dog cannot escape or other animals or people can access it.  Underground fencing is not an approved method of securing the dogs under the proposed amendment to the ordinance.

When a “vicious” dog is off its owner’s property, it must be on a leash and restrained by someone at least 18 years of age or older. The dog must also wear a muzzle. A dog defined as “vicious” is not allowed to be on a porch or patio.

If the owner does not comply with the requirements, if the proposed changes are voted into law by the Board, then they could face a misdemeanor charge and fined between $500-1,000 and possibly face up to 90 days in jail.

If the court finds the owner is not fit to, or unable to provide the necessary measures required to keep their dog then they may be ordered by the court to surrender the dog to the city’s animal shelter.