Newark, OH: Proposal to amend pit bull ordinance introduced

Residents in Newark, Ohio are asking the city council to amend the city’s ordinance regulating the ownership of “pit bulls.”

Under Newark city code 618.15, any dog that “belongs to a breed that is commonly known as a pit bull dog” is designated as vicious regardless of whether it has ever acted or displayed dangerous behavior.

The city’s current ordinance requires owners of “pit bulls” to maintain a $100,000 liability insurance policy, keep their dogs in an approved locked pen or other locked and covered enclosure, muzzle their dogs while off their property, and microchip and register their dogs, keeping that information current with the city.

Councilwoman Rhonda Loomis has introduced a proposal to the Safety Committee that would amend the ordinance and remove the “vicious dog” status for pit bulls that pass the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen test.  The 10-point test requires dogs to tolerate strangers and other dogs, walk on a leash under control, sit on command, stay in place, come when called and accept a three-minute separation from its owner.

Police Chief Steve Sarver indicated that he wants the dogs to pass a test annually if the council approves the measure, and he doesn’t want a good test to erase a bad past.  Chief Sarver also expressed concern over the manner in which dogs that passed the CGC test would be identified and differentiated from those that have not.

The Safety Committee has tabled the proposal until its next session on December 9, 2013 to allow the city law director to amend the proposal and to give Chief Sarver time to see what other Ohio communities are doing.

Last year, Councilman Jeff Rath proposed removing the automatic vicious status for pit bulls after the state law went into effect, removing “pit bulls” from the definition of vicious dog. While his proposal would have rescinded the insurance and microchip requirements, as well as the limit of one pit bull per household, it would have left the confinement regulations in place.  The council defeated Rath’s measure by a vote of 3-7 in November of 2012.

While not a full repeal, pit bull owners in Newark see the current proposal as a compromise that will work toward changing the status and stigma associated with pit bulls.

Sometimes positive change comes in small steps, and if the Newark council approves the proposal introduced by Councilwoman Loomis, it puts the city one step closer to removing the breed specific restrictions completely at some point in the future.

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