Reynoldsburg, OH: Discussions continue on removing “pit bull” from definition of vicious dog

On Monday, December 2, 2013 at 7:30 p.m., the various committees of the Reynoldsburg, Ohio city council will meet to discuss the issues they have been working on.

One of the items on the Safety Committee’s agenda is discussion of Chapter 505, which regulates, among other things, the ownership of “vicious dogs or other vicious animals,” and automatically labels “pit bull dogs” as vicious.  This section of the Chapter has been the focus of change for many residents in the city for the past several months.

In February 2012, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed HB 14 into law, thus removing “pit bulls”  from the definition of “vicious dog” in the state law that had been in effect since 1987.   While many cities in Ohio have followed the state’s lead and removed the breed specific provisions from their local ordinances, Reynoldsburg has not changed its law.

After hearing from many residents at the October 21 city council meeting, the majority of which supported removing the breed specific provisions from the city’s ordinance, the members of the Reynoldsburg council tabled the issue for additional discussions.

Eight people were recently named to an ad hoc committee to review Reynoldsburg’s law concerning dangerous dogs, which specifically bans pit bulls and labels them as “vicious and dangerous.”  The members consist of an attorney who, in his capacity as a law director for Grove City and Dublin, prosecuted animal control matters, a veterinarian, an ER nurse, representatives from Pit Bulls for Renoldsburg and the Licking County Humane Society, a professional dog trainer, the city attorney and the Reynoldsburg chief of police.

Members of Pit Bulls for Reynoldsburg have been attending city council meetings and encouraging the council to repeal the city’s breed specific ordinance for the last several months.  Advocates have been working hard distributing educational materials and gaging public support for repealing the ordinance over the last six months.  Some council members say they aren’t changing their minds about the breed specific ordinance because they don’t think that most of the city’s residents want to change the pit bull rule.

Councilwoman Monica DeBrock said she’d like to overhaul the entire animal ordinance, which, she said, “doesn’t protect anyone.”  In fact, DeBrock stated she’d like to ban “all large dogs” from Reynoldsburg until an effective animal control ordinance is passed.

In addition, Councilman Scott Barrett is looking for reassurance that the views of residents are heard as opposed to “those solely made from lobbyists.”

It is imperative that Reynoldsburg residents take part in the city council’s discussions on not just repealing the pit bull ordinance, but overhauling the entire animal control code. 

Council members acknowledge the current code related to animal control is not working.  This is an excellent opportunity to encourage the city council to scrap the current code, roll up your sleeves, and work with your city officials to craft an ordinance that benefits the entire community.  The removal of the breed specific language is only one of many elements in need of updating.

In a related issue that highlights the problems associated with the subjectivity of breed specific laws, a city resident recently received a citation for harboring a “pit bull” in the city limits.  The owner disputes the designation which would result in forcing the dog out of the city.  How was this breed determination made?  A Reynoldsburg police officer took a photo of the dog in question, which is a Cane Corso/Presa Canario mix, and showed it to the Franklin County dog warden, who positively identified the dog as a “pit bull.”

As always, “pit bull” is in the eye of the beholder, rendering dogs with a certain appearance guilty until proven innocent.  How does the removal of an animal with a certain appearance and no history of behavior issues make the community safer?  Wouldn’t the city be better served if police and animal control targeted the dogs who display dangerous behavior  and the irresponsible and reckless owners who allow and/or encourage this behavior?

This latest incident only underscores the need to repeal the current city code and put in its place an ordinance that creates a safe environment and benefits all the members of Reynoldsburg – both people and animals.

Monday’s meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be held in the Municipal Building.

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