Good news out of Newark, Ohio!
At their April 4, 2016 meeting, the Newark, Ohio city council voted to adopt Ordinance 16-07A – an ordinance that eliminates the breed specific language from the city code. In effect, the ordinance removes the special designation of “vicious dog” to pit bull-type dogs and aligns the city code with state law.
After lengthy discussion and input from several citizens at the April 4 meeting that was jam packed with residents, a motion was made to table the ordinance until the next committee meeting. That motion failed in a 6-5 vote, and the discussion continued on.
A vote was then taken to adopt the ordinance, which resulted in a 5-5 tie. Those who voted against ending breed discrimination in Newark were Councilmembers Bubb, Cost, Floyd, Hall and Rolletta.
Ultimately, the tie-breaker came down to Council President Don Ellington who, in weighing all the arguments, believed passage of the ordinance would both enhance the safety of the citizens of Newark and encourage dog owners to be more responsible, cast the final vote to pass Ordinance 16-07A.
Mr. Ellington announced that the ordinance would be enacted within 30 days.
I wanted to share with you a portion of the argument of Councilman Jeff Rath, one of the members who introduced the ordinance. Mr. Rath obviously understands his role as a public servant and representative of the people who put him in office:
“As far as why we have introduced this legislation, for me, I have kind of led this charge for a while….
…look around. There are a lot of people in this chamber, both for and against this, but there have been a lot of people who have been pushing for this for a very long time, and those people have done everything that it has taken to have their voice heard. I feel, personally, as an elected official, that it is our job to allow their voice to be heard. So whether I was for or against this, when there are this many people that are coming out on an issue and want to have their voice heard, then I think that it is their right to have it heard…. If I have to introduce legislation to represent them that nobody else will, then I will do that. I commend all of you for getting up and speaking and for following this through for as long as you have.
To me, this is about making Newark safer. This is going to eliminate a significant administrative responsibility of our animal control officer. Without him having to do [those administrative duties], it is going to free up a lot of his time to actually pursue vicious animals…to actually pursue other animal issues that we have in our city.
There is also the issue of what is a pit bull? There are cases going through our courts right now through the Licking County court system that could possibly eliminate breed specific legislation state wide. Pit bull is such an arbitrary term. What is a pit bull? Is it this kind of terrier or that kind of terrier? Its not a specific breed, and its very difficult to identify. [This ordinance] eliminates discrimination. There are a lot of good dog owners that are being discriminated against simply because of the type of dog that they have. They are forced to jump through a lot of hoops, and to me, that is just over stepping government, and its just not right. [This ordinance] increases owner accountability.”
The council minutes can be found on the City of Newark’s website, and you can read all the arguments both for and against the ordinance there.
I had a wonderful conversation with the council clerk this afternoon who confirmed that the amendment removes any and all reference to “pit bulls” and deems all dogs as vicious based on their actions and behaviors. She also confirmed that Mayor Hall signed the ordinance the night of the council meeting, April 4, which means it goes into effect TOMORROW, May 4, 2016.
Congratulations Newark! Years of hard work paid off…you did it! This is a GREAT win for your community and for common sense dog laws that focus on behavior instead of breed.