HOT SPRINGS, Ark — Hundreds of dogs are held in shelters around Central Arkansas every night, but one that got out Tuesday drew a lot of attention.
Gene Williams wrote on his Facebook page that he tried to adopt a pit bull mix from the Hot Springs animal shelter last week but was told he could not because of a city law. The post received hundreds of comments and reactions and more than 1,300 shares as of Tuesday night.
“Our laws are very lenient, I think,” Sgt. Chris Lackey said. “There’s some cities that have banned—or municipalities—that have banned pit bull breeds.
“Here, we just don’t adopt them out of our animal shelter. They’re not banned from the city or the county. We just can’t adopt them out of our animal shelter due to a city ordinance that was passed in 2005.”
Lackey, the director of animal services for the City of Hot Springs, said the city’s shelter is governed by Ordinance 10-1-63 when dealing with pit bulls and pit mixes. It states that any such dog “shall not be offered for adoption.” Only the dog’s owner can take it home if they can show enough proof to convince shelter staff it is really theirs.
“Vet records, you know, with a description of the dog,” Lackey said as an example of what he considers to be proof. “Most all vet records are going to have a description. Pictures, you know, markings on the dog. And then we can go from there are verify that.”
City Ordinance 10-1-60 states that the shelter must hold an animal for at least five business days, as long as it is not sick or dangerous. If its owner does not claim it within that time, it becomes property of the Animal Services Department, which may adopt the animal or euthanize it.
“We want to give them a fair chance for their owner—if they have one—to come and try to reclaim them,” Lackey stated.
But the shelter is small, so if staff members cannot find the pet’s owner and cannot adopt it to someone else, they will put it down. Lackey said the city’s ordinance does not allow for a rescue group that specializes in pit bulls to take the dog, only its legal owner.
That is why so many people shared Williams’ story, which ultimately led to a happy moment on Tuesday afternoon.
“Through all the Facebook posts, the owner of the dog saw it and contacted us and brought proof,” Lackey said. “And he couldn’t afford it, but people rallied together and came up with the money (to pay) the fine for getting the dog out, and he was reunited with his dog and reclaimed it.”
During a tour of the shelter, Lackey pointed out that some dogs have been there since early in the month. He said that, while the city ordinance allows the shelter to euthanize an animal after five business days, the staff will wait as long as it can, especially if there is a chance to adopt it to someone else or return it to its owner.
“Maybe the owner was arrested, for whatever reason, and we were called out to pick the dog up out of the car,” Lackey said. “If we know the owner’s address, we make every possible effort to get in touch with that owner, usually by certified mail. And that can take, you know, anywhere from 15-30 days, and we can’t do anything with that dog during that process.”
Lackey mentioned that photos and descriptions of all of the animals at the shelter are submitted to PetFinder.com. He added that someone comes once a week and takes photos of each animal to put on the city’s website to help owners find their missing pets. “They may see it on that site,” he explained, “and say, ‘oh, my dog, that’s my dog!’
“Animal Services should be always the first place that someone checks when they’ve lost their dog.”
After Williams posted about his experience, several people said they sent letters to city directors to ask them to repeal the ordinance and allow anyone to adopt a pit bull.