BSL ALERT: Worcester, MA

The city of Worcester, MA is considering an ordinance that would regulate the ownership of “pit bulls.” Please send your POLITE, RESPECTFUL and INFORMATIVE letters in opposition to breed specific legislation to the Worcester officials listed below.

The ordinance is to be referred to the Public Health and Human Services committee, and the members of that committee are Philip Palmieri, Barbara Haller, and Konstantina Lukes.

No date has been set as to when this issue might be heard next, but it is important to get your letters out for the council’s consideration.

Worcester City Council
City Hall Room 112
455 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608
Phone: (508) 799-1049
Fax: (508) 799-1194
Email: council@worcesterma.gov

Mayor
Joseph C. O’Brien
17 Oread Place
Worcester, MA 01610
Phone: (508) 799-1153
Fax: (508) 799-1156
Email: mayor@worcesterma.gov

City Council Quick List:
GermainM@worcesterma.gov,LukesK@worcesterma.gov,PettyJM@worcesterma.gov,
RushtonR@worcesterma.gov,ToomeyK@worcesterma.gov,SmithJA@worcesterma.gov,
PalmieriP@worcesterma.gov,ClancyP@worcesterma.gov,HallerB@worcesterma.gov,
EddyW@worcesterma.gov

City Manager
Michael O’Brien
CityManager@worcesterma.gov

City Clerk
David Rushford
clerk@worcesterma.gov

Monday, July 19, 2010

Proposed rule would restrict pit bulls
Muzzles would be mandatory outside home

By Nick Kotsopoulos TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
nkotsopoulos@telegram.com

WORCESTER — Local pit bull owners are facing the prospects of greater restrictions, duties and licensing requirements for their dogs.

City Manager Michael V. O’Brien is recommending to the City Council an ordinance intended to deal with public safety concerns that have been raised by city councilors in recent months about pit bulls.

The ordinance, which was initially requested by the council in February, is modeled after the Responsible Pit Bull Ownership ordinance, which has existed in Boston the past five years.

While the ordinance would not ban pit bulls or restrict them to private property, it would impose supplementary licensing and registration requirements for those dogs, in addition to the regular annual dog license. The fee for the additional pit bull registration and license would be $50.

The ordinance also would require pit bulls to be leashed and muzzled, or placed in a secure temporary enclosure, when taken off the owner’s premises.

Other requirements call on pit bull owners to:

•Obtain the consent of their landlord to keep a pit bull on the premises.

•Place a warning sign on their property, informing the public that a pit bull is on the premises.

•Notify animal control officers or the police whenever their pit bull injures or threatens any person or animal.

The ordinance also authorizes animal control officers or the police to impound pit bulls found in violation of the ordinance, and it also provides owners with the right to a hearing for any violations or impoundment of the pit bull.

City Solicitor David M. Moore said the ordinance would apply to pit bull owners and anyone who possesses, keeps, exercises control over, maintains, transports or sells pit bulls.

He added that it also prohibits the sale or transfer of pit bulls without the submission of a new license and registration application to the city clerk.

District 5 Councilor William J. Eddy has been a leading force in pushing for the pit bill ordinance. He pointed out that over the past three years, only 2 percent of the dogs licensed by the city are pit bulls, but 25 percent of all dog bites over the same period were caused by that breed.

Along those lines, Mr. Moore said the justification for the ordinances are Police Department statistics showing the prevalence of pit bulls in attacks and complaints. He also referred to an incident last year on Aetna Street when a pit bill attacked a 3-year-old boy, leaving him requiring more than 100 stitches.

Mr. Moore said that although the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 1989 that a community cannot impose a total ban on the ownership or possession of pit bulls, more recent decisions have given communities more latitude.

He also pointed out that the state Appeals Court ruled in October that landlords may be held liable for an attack made by a pit bull owned by one of their tenants.

“These court decisions, the fact that the proposed ordinance does not ban pit bulls and the existence of similar ordinances in Boston and Lowell lead me to conclude that this ordinance would be upheld by the courts,” Mr. Moore wrote in a report that goes before the council tomorrow night.

The council is expected to refer the proposed ordinance to its Public Health and Human Services Committee for a hearing. A simple majority vote (six votes) of the council is needed for adoption.

If approved by the council, the ordinance would take effect 90 days after final adoption, or on April 1, 2011, whichever comes later.

Mr. Moore suggested it would be appropriate to have an extended effective date for an ordinance of this nature.

He added that an April 1 effective date would also line up with the annual April 1 deadline for obtaining regular dog licenses.

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