The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Newark Might Delay Pit-Bull Vote The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Newark Might Delay Pit-Bull Vote

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Newark Might Delay Pit-Bull Vote


Man holding pit bull puppy
NEWARK, Ohio — Pit-bull owners and their supporters have filled the city council chambers for weeks, turning each committee meeting and council gathering into a passionate appeal for equality.
Currently, Newark’s law deems nearly all pit bulls as vicious, requiring their owners to take precautions that owners of other breeds don’t need to heed, such as registration, additional insurance coverage and confinement regulations.
A proposal before the council would eliminate that breed-specific designation. Supporters argue that current law punishes good pit bulls for the actions of the bad, and only dogs that act viciously should be deemed vicious. The catch phrase of those supporting the proposal is “punish the deed, not the breed.”
The council is slated to vote on the issue Tuesday, though council members acknowledged last week that the vote might be postponed.
Councilman Jeremy Blake, who appears to be the only Democrat supporting the proposal, will be in Thailand at a friend’s wedding and can’t attend Tuesday’s council meeting.
The proposal’s sponsor, 3rd Ward Councilman Jeff Rath, tried to delay the vote at the last council meeting. “Because of the outpouring of support that we have for this issue, I felt that it was necessary to have a vote from full council,” he said.
But in the first indication that things weren’t going well for those hoping to eliminate Newark’s breed-specific regulation, Rath’s attempt was thwarted in a 6-4 vote. In the two weeks since then, however, it appears that some of the city’s 10 council members might be second-guessing their decisions.
“I’d hate to leave Jeremy out of what is an important vote,” said the council’s majority leader, Democrat Carol Floyd.
The reconsideration, however, should not be mistaken for a change of heart on the issue itself. Interviews with council members seem to indicate that the proposal could fail by the same 6-4 vote.
The supporters, however, remain optimistic. Swinging one vote from “nay” to “aye” would force Republican council President Don Ellington to break the tie.
“I think he’ll help us,” said Niki Arter, one of the leading proponents of overturning the law. “ He was the first one to pat the pit bulls” when a number of pit-bull owners brought their dogs to City Hall.
Rath has focused on changing the city’s dog laws since he became a councilman five years ago. About 2002, his son, Jason, was bitten in the face by a Labrador retriever, requiring stitches. Thirty days later, the same dog attacked a 5-year-old boy at a Newark Catholic football game, resulting in an injury requiring nearly 200 stitches to reattach the boy’s ear. The owner was never charged, said Rath, and “that dog died of old age.”
“I want to make it incredibly difficult for a vicious dog to live in the city of Newark, and I want to make it incredibly painful for the irresponsible owner of a vicious dog in the city of Newark,” he said.
The current proposal does neither, he concedes. He said he plans to offer changes soon to strengthen Newark’s dog law. He got behind this issue first, he said, because the citizens demanded it.
“We had a council meeting, and 30 or 40 people showed up asking us to overturn our breed-specific legislation. The council president assigned the task to the safety committee, and 50 or 60 people attended that and had a civil discussion of the issue for more than two hours,” he said. Opponents say Newark just tweaked its vicious-dog law barely a year ago to give good pit bulls an out. A clause was added that said pit bulls that pass the American Kennel Club’s “Canine Good Citizen” test each year will not be deemed vicious and owners will be absolved of meeting the city’s additional requirements for vicious breeds.
Of the 118 pit bulls registered in Newark, only three have passed the good-citizen test since the law was approved in December 2013.
Floyd thinks pit-bull owners should take their cause to the citizens.
“If this does not pass, the people who believe in the issue should take out a petition from the board of elections and collect the necessary signatures to get it on the ballot,” she said. “I understand that the vicious-dog law affects their dog, but it affects everybody in the community as well.”
State lawmakers overturned breed-specific language in Ohio law in 2012, though the state’s home rule allows municipalities to adopt their own laws.
Bexley and Reynoldsburg have banned the ownership of pit bulls, while Dublin, Canal Winchester, New Albany and Upper Arlington classify pit bulls as vicious, with restrictions. Columbus, Gahanna, Grove City, Hilliard, Pickerington, Westerville, Whitehall, Worthington and some other cities are breed-neutral.
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