Opportunity for repeal of decades-old pit bull ordinance in Mount Gilead, Ohio

The Village of Mount Gilead, Ohio is considering repealing its decades-old pit bull ban after the issue was brought before the council by residents.

At the council meeting on June 16, 2014, Attorney Andrew Wick and his wife, Laura, supplied packets of information with studies from the American Humane Society, Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, and the American Veterinary Medical Association for the council’s review.  Mr. Wick advised the council that breed specific legislation is not effective and is actually cost prohibitive.  He went on to advise that there are “better ways and means of handling animal control issues,” and that these methods were actually “mentioned in the breed specific legislation itself.”

Ordinance 505.14 prohibits “pit bulls” from living in the village, and defines a “Pit Bull Terrier” as:

 (b)   … any Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog, or any mixed breed of dog which contains, as an element of its breeding, the breed of Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier, as to be identifiable as particularly of the breed of Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier by a qualified veterinary duly licensed as such by the State.

According to Councilman Ed Kline, who sat on the council when the law passed in the 80’s, the ordinance was the end result of an issue with ONE family who resided there, and has remained on the books ever since.  The police chief confirmed that only one citation related to the ordinance has been issued in the twenty years that he’s worked for the village.

Council discussed a nearby community that is currently considering repealing its breed specific law, and Mr. Wick responded that rather than focus on breeds, that proposal addresses vicious animal legislation by dealing with the behavior of animals, as well as implementing and strictly enforcing responsible owner laws.

Finally, the village solicitor advised the council that the current ordinance is “very difficult for us to enforce,” and that he would have no issue if council chose to update or make changes to the law.

The village council members ultimately decided to send the matter to the Codes and Regulations Committee for further discussion.

I spoke with the village clerk this morning, and she advised that once the committee discussed the matter, they would provide their recommendations to the council as a whole.   She also advised that the council was very interested in getting the opinion of village residents.

Residents of Mount Gilead:  Please reach out to village officials and let them know you support the move to amend the vicious dog ordinance to eliminate any reference to specific breeds of dogs. Encourage village officials to focus on the behavior of individual dogs, as well as penalizing irresponsible dog owners who allow their dogs to become problems in the community.

In addition, considering the council expressed an interest in what other communities are doing with respect to animal control and vicious dog laws, let them know that since the Ohio Legislature passed a law removing all reference to specific breeds of dogs in the state’s vicious dog law in 2012, dozens of cities and towns across the state have followed suit in an effort to enhance the safety and welfare of all who reside in their communities – people and animals alike.

The next city council meeting is August 18, 2014 and anyone that would like to address the council will need to be added to the agenda by August 13.  **Please note, however, it is unknown at this time whether the Committee will have their recommendations on the proposal ready to present to the council, but residents can still take the opportunity at the next meeting to let village officials know they support repealing the ban on pit bull-type dogs.

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