Baxter County dog ordinance: What exactly defines ‘vicious’?

The update to the 1992 vicious dog ordinance that the Baxter County Quorum Court passed on June 3 has raised the concerns of a local animal rescue group.

“I still feel that the ordinance is very vague,” said Humane Society of North Central Arkansas President Barbara Chambers. “It’s not clearly defined and has too many loopholes.”

According to the ordinance, a vicious dog is “a dog that has an aggressive disposition to bite humans, or any dog which has bitten or attempted to bite any person.” The definition includes dogs that attempt to harm livestock, other dogs or cats.

“This definition is very vague in itself,” Humane Society shelter manager Carolyn Carter said. She added that many dogs will be aggressive when a person comes on their property, or they perceive a threat to their owners.

“I’ve heard of cases where EMS (Emergency Medical Services) have come into a house and have been bitten by the dog because it’s protecting its home,” Carter said.

Protective or vicious?

Carter said that it’s also in a dog’s nature to chase and sometimes attack other animals that come onto its owner’s property. She said that isn’t a sign of viciousness at all, just a dog acting on its instinct. Carter also noted dogs often will bite out of fear.

“A better definition of ‘vicious dog’ would be if it were to have bitten or attempted to bite a human without the circumstances of being on property, without the circumstances of someone hurting a member of its family or the dog itself,” Carter said.

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