Lenoir City Attorney Jim Scott said the ordinance gives authority to Lenoir City Judge Terry Vann and law enforcement should an animal pose an immediate threat of serious harm to the public.
Council heard from Lenoir City resident Connie Siedzinski in September regarding two pit bulls near her residence that she said posed a threat.
According to Siedzinski, the pit bulls ran a neighbor into her home and ran toward a city police officer in a vicious manner.
A second and final reading and public hearing on the new policy will be held during a regular council meeting Feb. 9 at Lenoir City Hall.
“One particular instance didn’t make me feel the need to draft this particular ordinance,” Scott told council. “It’s something that has evolved through the years witnessing a few individuals in city court and also my general experience in private practice. Here in Lenoir City, we’ve had some problems. ... I’ve seen just horrific things occur. For example, there was one case I was involved in where the front of the girl’s face was literally torn off.”
According to the ordinance, the Lenoir City judge can order the impoundment and destruction of an animal if the animal has attacked, bitten or injured a human being or domestic animal. The judge can also order impoundment if the animal is deemed vicious, the owner has failed to comply with requirements and conditions for keeping a vicious animal or the animal poses an immediate threat of serious harm to public health or safety.
The ordinance defines a “vicious animal” as one that because of its physical nature or propensity “is capable of inflicting serious physical harm or death to humans and which would constitute a danger to human life or property if it were not kept in the manner required by this chapter” or an animal that without provocation, attacks or bites.
The ordinance also defines confinement of such an animal and maintenance of the penned area and orders that owners must display visible warning signs about such an animal.
Scott said the ordinance is patterned after a city of Loudon’s policy on vicious animals.
“It’s more aggressive in some respects,” Scott said. “It allows our officers more flexibility in regard to who can enforce it. I think that it’s very important ... with regard to instances where an animal that might be vicious poses an immediate risk of harm that law enforcement ... are allowed to take immediate action to try to prevent another human being from being harmed by the vicious animal.
“We also give a little bit more judicial discretion to the city judge on how to impound or dispose of the animals,” he added.
According to the language of the ordinance, “Any officer with the Lenoir City Police Department or animal control officer shall have the authority to enforce this chapter without a warrant if he or she observes a violation occurring in his or her presence. He or she shall also have the authority to impound animals.”
Council members agreed that a policy on vicious animals should be in place.
According to Lenoir City Police Chief Don White, Lenoir City did not previously have a policy specifically on “vicious” animals.
“We don’t need them vicious animals around here like that,” councilman Bobby Johnson Sr. said after the meeting. “It’s just like if you have a guy come through here speeding and you don’t have a speed zone up you can’t do anything to him. That’s the same way with them (animals). If you don’t (have) some kind of ordinance on them there’s nothing we can do about it. ... We needed it bad.”