The city of Salem now has an ordinance to deal with dog owners who let their pets run free in the city. The council passed the ordinance at the July 27 city council meeting at Salem City Hall.
"We need this ordinance," Police Chief Albert Roork said. Mayor Gary Clayton agreed, saying the problem with stray dogs must be dealt with.
Although the ordinance includes cats, most of it is meant to deal with dogs. The ordinance states it will allow city authorities to fine pet owners if their pet makes excessive noise, causes damage to personal property, scatters refuge, harasses passersby, attacks people or other animals, obstructs traffic or causes any person to reasonably fear bodily injury or sustain bodily injury by attacking or threatening to attack people other than trespassers.
The ordinance also states that an owner shall not permit a female domestic pet in heat to be outside a building or other secured enclosure.
The ordinance states a person may kill a domestic pet to end an attack upon a person or another domestic pet or animal.
Penalties for violating the law start with a $50 fine for the first violation. The second violation comes with a $75 fine. The third violation, and each thereafter, is $100. Failure to pay fines can lead to a contempt of court charge which can lead to jail time.
Clayton said the act can be changed in the future. He said what this ordinance can act as a starting point to deal with the problem.
Sue Gatewood of Salem said she had a neighbor who lured her dog onto their property and shot it. She wanted to know how the ordinance would deal with that situation. She said the neighbor's taunting caused her dog to enter their yard. It would be a criminal issue, Roork said.
Danny Williford of Salem, who raises pit bulls and sells them on e-Bay, asked if there would be a point at which the dog would be confiscated.
Clayton told Williford the city cannot afford annual boarding for animals. "I hope it can resolve itself without going that route," Clayton said.
Williford said the owners who keep getting fined should take responsibility for their animals or get them confiscated. He said other counties have arrangements with kennels and vets to either hold the animals or euthanize them for a fee. He said the money from the fines, which is slated to go into the city's general fund, could possibly fund that.
Roork said he needs relief from the problem with dogs in the city. Under the new ordinance he will still be handling most of the problems with animals since there is no animal control officer position in the city.
Roork said later that the main problems have been complaints about dogs killing other animals, getting into trash or scaring people. He said stray dogs are not the problem; instead it is owners who are not properly supervising their animals. The ordinance will not handle stray dogs, Roork said.
The ordinance passed its first, second and third readings at the meeting. It will go into effect in 30 days.
A discussion became heated when a local business owner told the council that city officials are not doing enough to support local business.
Nancy DuQuette, owner of Nancy Lee's Wedding Boutique & Chapel, told the council that if people in Salem don't spend money in Salem the town will die. She said she thought city officials were not doing enough to make themselves known to business.
"I never knew you were mayor," DuQuette said to Clayton. She said Clayton did not show up to the grand opening of her store on the town square.
"I was not invited to your grand opening" Clayton said. "I wasn't told about it."
"It's about time for you all to see what a beautiful shop I have," DuQuette said.
DuQuette told the council that she is from the big city. She said it was not her choice to come to Salem; her husband is the one from the area.
DuQuette said she had to get a job somewhere else to support her business. "You should introduce yourselves to me," DuQuette said. "I expected more from a small town."
Clayton said he has been working on promoting the city to industry. "It's not that nothing is being done," he said. "Some things are under way."
"Our society has changed. We all go to Wal-Mart or Lowes now," Clayton said.
Write-in sheriff candidate Charles Dabbs said young people in the area don't think twice about going to the Bass Pro in Springfield, Mo. Dabbs' wife owns the bait and tackle store at the edge of town.
He said he thought the city officials should show up for music on the square on Friday nights and meet the people on the square. "You are the civic leaders. People see you," Dabbs said. "(Fulton County Judge) Charles Willett is the only one I see."
Fire Chief Heath Everett said the music on the square Friday nights is not the sort of thing that usually attracts young people, who are the people who spend money.
The next Salem City Council meeting is slated for Aug. 24 at 7 p.m.