Newark, OH: Proposal to amend pit bull ordinance passes to full council

The Newark, Ohio city council safety committee unanimously passed a resolution on Monday that would remove pit bulls from automatic vicious dog status if they undergo formalized training and pass an AKC good citizenship test annually.   The proposal now heads to the full city council for a first reading on December 16, 2013.

The current law in Newark automatically defines “pit bulls” as vicious dogs and requires owners to maintain a $100,000 liability insurance policy, the dogs must be registered and microchipped, and must be muzzled and on a chain link leash when out.  The city also restricts one “vicious dog” per household.

Dogs of all other breeds in Newark earn the elevated “vicious” status (and all the restrictions required of such designation) by committing a vicious act.

During Monday’s committee meeting, the city law director clarified that the proposed measure would not grant exemptions to dogs that have seriously harmed someone and, therefore, earned their vicious designation.  The panel also agreed in a 5-0 vote to change the language in the ordinance to require “formalized training” as opposed to an AKC-sponsored training program.

If the council passes the measure, pit bull owners would be required to present proof that their dog had passed the test and completed the training when they apply annually for a dog license.

The police chief is adamant that enforcement of the new ordinance is going to be “a nightmare.”  He said if the bill passes, police or animal control will have to stop and check for credentials every time they see an owner walking a pit bull without a muzzle.

That “nightmare” scenario has a simple solution.

Chapter 618 of the city code already has adequate language to regulate vicious and dangerous dogs without the need to single out any specific breed.  As noted above, dogs of all other breeds in Newark earn the elevated “vicious” status and attendant requirements by committing a vicious act.

The proposal does not have the support of the police or animal control, and some council members also seem unwilling to amend the ordinance in any way.

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 While his proposal would have rescinded the insurance and microchip requirements, as well as the limit of one pit bull per household, it would have left the confinement regulations in place.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.

To be clear, the proposal is disappointing and falls short in expectations as owners of “pit bull-type” dogs will still be discriminated against.  However, this is the offer on the table, and it is a baby step toward eventual repeal of some and possibly, one day, all the breed discriminatory provisions of the law.  

More importantly, though, 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, and an opportunity to have the undeserved “vicious dog” label removed from their family companions, and we should support them in their efforts to make that happen.

The issue is set for hearings on December 16, and January 6, and could have a vote by then.

OHIO RESIDENTS:  Please send your polite and respectful letters encouraging city officials to more forward and give pit bull owners the opportunity to relieve themselves from the burden of the label and restrictions applied to vicious dogs in Newark.  If you live in a city that has repealed breed specific legislation since the passage of HB14 last year, include your input on how the new law is working in your town, and perhaps even include a copy of the new ordinance.  Letters and materials can be sent to the council clerk, Autumn Klein ( with a polite request to forward copies to each city council member.

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