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Port Arthur City Council: Complaints on dogs, other ordinances being investigated

Even as a recent presentation to city council brought unleashed dogs to a discussion on dangerous situations, city council and staff have been working since November to comb through and reinforce a multitude of related city ordinances.

Councilwoman Charlotte Moses requested a discussion and the formation of a committee at the Nov. 24, 2020, council meeting, according to a report by Pamela Langford, director of development services and assistant city manager. A committee was soon after formed, which consisted of Moses, Councilman Thomas Kinlaw and Mayor Thurman Bartie.

“Approximately 250 city related bills were passed during legislative session that could affect local ordinances, such as House Bill 3340, which talks about dangerous dogs,” Langford said. “Basically this House Bill requires an amendment be made to the health and safety code that a dog be deemed dangerous in a period of 10 calendar days from the date the order is issued.”

The bill, which took effect Sept. 1, allows animal control to euthanize a dog if the owner has not complied with city requests within 10 days of its capture.

The current Port Arthur city ordinance allows for five days before a captured dog can be sent to another shelter, rehomed or euthanized, if necessary.

Langford’s report followed a recent presentation by local runner Ivan Mitchell, who said he’s often been assaulted by stray dogs and has once been forced to stab one.

He then showed councilmembers a still from video footage he said was taken near Rev. Dr. Ransom Howard Street, where a child left a school bus and appeared to start running from two dogs.

“As she’s getting off the bus you can see in the top picture — you’ll see the little girl is running in the street,” Mitchell said. “…In the top picture she’s running in the street.”

In the photo of the child leaving the bus, two nearby dogs are visible.

“Thank God there were no vehicles coming by because…she darts directly in the street, not looking anywhere. Not her fault; she’s scared,” Mitchell said.

Moses said council and city staff members have been taking complaints on ordnance violations very seriously in order to make changes, basing severity off the complaints received by councilmembers.

“Animals was a huge thing,” she said in a recent council meeting. “Animals — that’s what most of the calls (council and staff) got from all over. There are and will be other meetings on other sections. We’re not just twiddling our thumbs. The work is being done. It’s just taking some time. I hate that it seems like snail pace but we’re doing it as fast as we can.”

Other areas being looked at based on calls are junked cars, litter and property maintenance. Langford said Councilmembers Ingrid Holmes and Kenneth Marks recently conducted district tours to inspect code violations.

“The remarkable part of this is, in spite of the fact that we are in a pandemic, significant progress is being made as a municipality,” City Manager Ron Burton said. “No time has been lost or squandered. We are moving full speed ahead to make sure these concerns are being addressed in a timely and relevant matter.”

Councilman Thomas Kinlaw echoed these statements Friday and said the committee has met several times regarding stray dogs.

“We want the citizens to be safe and have dog owners being accountable for their pets,” he said.

MORE: Click here to read about Ivan Mitchell’s presentation to the council.