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Dog bite forces city of Etowah to begin stricter pit bull ban enforcement

Gizmo, the dog owned by the Etowah man who says a pit bull attacked them both this week.

The city of Etowah says a recent dog bite incident is forcing them to taking a "more stringent dog registration policy."

The city banned pit bulls in 2012. A recent post on the city's Facebook page says there was a biting incident involving a pit bull that happened on Wednesday.

In the post, the city went on to announce new measures that will be taken for anyone who adopts a dog in city limits.

Residents who adopt a new dog must register them at city hall and have them photographed to provide proof they are not violating the city's pit bull ban.

The widely-shared post was met with criticism from many commenters.

"Etowah Tennessee is advocating the denial to the First Amendment! They are against the freedom of speech!" says commenter Todd Smith.

Commenter Randa Lynn Rhoades suggested that some people may be inclined to lie about the breed of the dogs they adopt: "Seems to me that this ordinance is nothing but fear mongering and ignorance. Just fyi, start calling your dogs Staffordshire Terrier or American bulldog mixes."

When the city passed the pit bull ban in 2012, they wrote an ordinance outlining some of the characteristics that make them dangerous, including "a diminished tendency to warn they're going to attack, a tendency to "fight to the death" and to tear flesh "which has resulted in grotesque injuries to human victims."

Mayor Jim Bull, Vice Mayor Matt Goodin and Commissioner Jim Swayne voted in favor of the ban in 2012. Commissioners Dennis Morgan and Burke Garwood voted against it.

The ordinance allowed prior owners of pit bulls to keep their dogs, but required them to buy $100,000 in liability insurance, to keep the dogs muzzled on short leashes when outside of the home, and to keep the dogs confined indoors or a in a locked pen or kennel while at home.

The issue of whether pit bulls are an inherently dangerous breed has long been a topic of discussion online and on social media. Read Time magazine's look at the topic here, and check out this entry from "DogsBite.org" on the nature of pit bulls.

Edwin Wilson and his 6 year old Jack Russell Terrier, Gizmo, went for a walk Wednesday afternoon.

It was a normal day for the two until something very unexpected happened.

"Gizmo had stopped to sniff and the dog had attacked us from behind, and before we knew anything about it, he had Gizmo by the neck - just flopping him around," said Wilson.

Wilson says it was his neighbor's dog that broke loose from this leash attached to the porch.

But Gizmo wasn't the only one who got hurt.

"I tackled the dog like an alligator wrestler to get my hands in his mouth to pry it open to get Gizmo loose. I got a laceration on both hands, and a lot of tooth marks where the dog had bit me," he said.

According to Etowah city manager Matthew Grabley - the attacking dog didn't fall under the current rule because he wasn't a pitbull.

But this incident does fall into the "vicious dog" part of the ordinance.

"The dog was reported to be an American bulldog. It is very similar in appearance and similar in characteristics to pit bull breeds," he said.

Since this attack, the city says it will do a better job of enforcing the local law, by taking a picture of each dog with an unknown or mixed breed for their records.

"I hate for them to lose their pet, but it's a danger to everybody else and it could've happened to a school kid walking up and down or some female that wasn't strong enough. And, quite frankly, I'm not strong enough to handle the dog," said Wilson.

Grabley says the attacking dog is being held at the Animal Clinic in Athens.

Wilson says he'll be at the next city council meeting to making some recommendations about the dog ordinances. Both Wilson and Gizmo are expected to be okay.

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