Dangerous Dog Ordinance: What it means for dog owners

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Knoxville (WVLT) - They're called man's best friend, but dog attack victims families say they can become man's worst enemy.

Knox County government is just one called vote away from kicking it's dangerous dog restrictions up a notch.

Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy's been looking into the new ordinance and what it means for dog owners.

As before, a dog could be deemed dangerous if it attacks someone unprovoked. Those behind this new ordinance say it aims to make dog owners more responsible.
If they're not, animal control officers can take their four-legged friend away. That's more power than officers have ever had.

The pitbull and her three pups that've caused James Pipes so much pain.

"When you think it can't get anymore it does," Pipes said.

Police say the female pitbull and another adult male killed his niece, 21-year-old Jennifer Lowe, in November. The dogs had been deemed dangerous.

"You hear people say when you lose a child it's the most painful thing you can experience, and it's true," Pipes said.

Then this month, a loose rotweiller attacked Daishauna Craig. She lived.

"I think it's never too late. You've got to start somewhere," commissioner Ivan Harmon said.

So Knox County Commissioner Ivan Harmon's pushing changes to the county dangerous dog ordnance.

"I think it's time the property owner's made aware he's responsible of that if that animal gets out and hurts someone," Harmon said.

The new ordinance lets animal control officers take a dog they believe's a threat to public safety. It would be impounded immediately pending a hearing.

"That is the part we weren't able to do," Harmon said.

It also includes provisions for mandatory spay or neutering of dogs deemed dangerous. Also, implanting them with a ID microchip. For more serious Level 2 dangerous dogs, owners would have to carry at least 100-thousand dollars in liability insurance.

"This is a great first step, but that's all it is," Pipes said.

If deemed, only a level one, the dangerous dog must be confined indoors or by an outside enclosure, like a fence.

"That isn't going to save someone's life inside the home that doesn't know or doesn't know any better, what they're around," Pipes said.

Pipes wants dangerous dogs muzzled when they're around anyone other than the owner.

"Right now we need to take one step at a time," Harmon said.

Pipes won't give up fighting for his niece.

"We can't change what happened, but we can change the system," Pipes said.

And changes could be on the way. The new ordinance doesn't target any certain breed. This is a part of larger process of trying to eliminate differences between all the city and county dog ordinances.

County commissioners approved the new dangerous dog ordinance on first reading last month. They'll vote on it again in two weeks. If it passes then, the ordinance becomes official.

Both the city and the county also already have leash laws.

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