Some citizens asking for an ordinance against vicious dogs in the neighborhood
ROCKVIEW -- Dog problems are on loose in the community of Rockview. Last month, citizens filed a petition with 54 signatures asking for an ordinance outlawing vicious dogs in all of Scott County with the commission.
"They want to ban walking or having them in the town of Rockview," said Scott County Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn.
The focus of the issue are Timmy and Angela Donley, who have lived in Rockview -- with their Pit Bulls -- for about three years.
"I have five outside and two in the house, and they've been here the entire three years," Angela Donley said. "I've never had any trouble until this year."
Neighbors say they've complained of the problem in the past. "It's just an ongoing thing," said Bill Lenand, who lives across the street from the Donleys.
Anthony Connell lives down the street and circulated the petition. Since the Donleys aren't breaking any laws with the dogs, he was told "if you don't like it, get a petition."
About two-thirds of the neighborhood signed the petition, Carroll said. It isn't pointed at any particular problem, but a simple precaution.
"It's the idea of safety -- a community like this doesn't need vicious dogs," Carroll said. He's been told nothing can be done until there is harm. "But then it will be too late."
Another issue that added fuel to the fire was when a Pitt Bull the Donleys brought from Illinois a few months ago got loose. The Lenands and Carroll said they were concerned the dog was still running loose.
After the dog was lost, Donley said she called neighboring towns frequently to see if the dog had turned up. "He is actually in Chaffee now," she said. "Someone has put a collar on him and taken him in."
Lenand and Carroll said residents are afraid the dogs will turn on them or their children and grandchildren. They also report having been threatened by the dogs.
"It's mostly about the safety of the community," Carroll said. "We're a very small community here and we've got a lot of kids."
Some families won't let their children play near the Donleys' home.
"When our grandsons visit, we won't let them go out unless we're with them," said Lavonna Lenand. If the dogs come outside while the boys are there, the children then go inside the house.
But Angela Donley said the dogs aren't harmful. "My dogs are beautiful dogs," she said. "They're not aggressive, they're just as friendly as can be."
Lanette Baker, executive director of the Sikeston Area Humane Society, agreed the dogs are not aggressive. She has visited the home a few times in the past month since receiving calls about dog fighting.
"Those dogs are not scarred up from dog fighting," she said.
The couple has several other pets, including chickens, in their yard. "If these dogs were so terrible, their other pets would be dead," Baker said.
Baker said she had one concern. "One dog was close to the property line," she said. "But they took care of that without any problems -- I asked if they would move it and they did."
Donley said when the dogs are outside, they stay in her yard, supervised. The only time they leave the yard, they are on leashes, Donley said. She uses horse lead ropes to walk them.
"They are big ropes, to where I know they can not snap it or get loose if something were to happen," she said. They haven't been walked recently, because of all the controversy.
All the outside dogs are penned individually in eight foot tall pens, Donley said. She and her husband are also in the process of building a privacy fence for them, and so her other two dogs can go to the bathroom within it instead of in the front yard.
Bill and Lavonna Lenand and Carroll don't think the fence will solve any problems. There is a hole in the bottom of the fence, they said.
Construction on the fence won't be done for another month and a half, Donley said. It's a sturdy fence, she said. "The fence stops, but we put boards up on the bottom of it so nothing can get under or through," she said.
"I'm going above and beyond the guidelines of Scott County for these dogs and it's getting aggravating," Donley continued. She has had to take off quite a bit of work to deal with the problem.
She and her husband met with neighbors, with the sheriff present, to try to work out the problems. They were told the damage had already been done -- but the Donleys aren't sure what the damage is.
Commissioners aren't sure how to deal with the problem. "We've talked to several other counties, but no other county has a countywide ordinance on any dogs, no matter what type they are, other than Jefferson County in our area," said Jamie Burger, presiding commissioner. The commissioner's discussed the issue at Thursday's meeting.
"As of right now, we're still just kind of accumulating information on it," Ziegenhorn said. "We're taking all the data and everybody's concerns into consideration."
They are using the expertise of the Humane Society as a liaison between the commission and the Rockview community, Burger said.
Any ordinance would need to encompass all dog breeds with a potential for violence, Burger noted. But the commissioners have some hesitation against an ordinance. "If we make an ordinance, I think that would consume all of our sheriff's department time controlling it," Burger said.
The city of Sikeston does have an ordinance against dangerous dogs.