Johnstown residents will be restricted on the number of pets they can keep in their homes if proposed legislation is passed by village council.

Johnstown residents will be restricted on the number of pets they can keep in their homes if proposed legislation is passed by village council.

Council will consider legislation on Oct. 7 that would permit single-family residences a total of four dogs, or four cats, or any combination of cats and dogs totaling four.

Puppies and kittens under four months of age aren't included in the permitted number of dogs and cats.

Paula Evans, of Johnstown's Second Chance Humane Society, questions how the legislation will be enforced. She said she views the proposal as the village's attempt to control the pet owner.

"If someone has more than four animals, will they go through and confiscate pets?" Evans asked. "What about the number of cats you keep in a barn? What do you do about cat owners who are being irresponsible?"

Village manager Sarah Phillips said the proposed ordinance does somewhat control the pet owner, since the village doesn't have the ability to control a dog.
Phillips said the legislation is in line with ordinances passed by several municipalities in the central Ohio area.

"Four was chosen as a number because beyond five requires a kennel license," she said. "Most of the legislation is new, but some of it is an update to the current legislation."

If approved by council, the pet limit will be hard to enforce, Phillips agreed, but it will be policed by the Johnstown Police Department.

"The pet limit is a part of the overall update to the legislation," she said. "That number can certainly be changed by council, but it is the proposed limit in the current legislation. ... The legislation proposed basically follows the state law."

In addition to limiting the number of pets, council is also considering legislation dealing with dangerous or vicious dogs and exotic and restricted animals.

When introducing the vicious dog legislation earlier this month, Phillips said the village dealt with two pit bulls attacking and killing another dog about a month ago.

"Our ordinance doesn't address pit bulls," she said. "This establishes them as dangerous dogs and provides procedures for us to deal with it."

Evans said any dog in a pack environment can kill another dog.

"There are (state) laws in place about owning a pit bull," she said. "To say you can only have one -- it goes back to punishing the breed."

The proposed legislation states that "no person, organization or corporation shall own, keep, harbor or provide sustenance for more than one vicious dog, with the exception of puppies commonly known as pit bull or pit bull mixed breed dog." Veterinary hospitals, veterinary offices or animal shelter are exempt.

Robin Laux, of Columbus-based Measle's Animal Haven, said she tries to educate people about pit bulls.

"Most recently, Whitehall tried to ban pit bulls," she said. "We worked with council members to draft legislation that, instead, created a dangerous dog policy.

"Our mission is to provide pit bull education," Laux said. "There are pit bulls who have attacked. We do try to show people, 'Here's what pit bulls are.' Our perspective is that dogs are good, and people are irresponsible and the dogs suffer."

Her nonprofit has worked with Second Chance in the past, and she plans to attend Johnstown council's meeting.

"We're appalled by (the proposal)," Laux said. "It takes responsible owners and law-abiding citizens and turns them into criminals."

Under the dangerous and vicious dog legislation, violators could be fined anywhere from $25 to $250 and could be imprisoned for up to 30 days.

Draft legislation also prohibits the following: a venomous reptile, elephant, rhinoceros, lion, tiger, ocelot, cougar, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, hyena, bear, coyote, fox, bat, ape or monkey, wolf, opossum, raccoon, skunks or any hybrid of these animals or any other prehensile or carnivorous mammals that exceeds 35 pounds, and is normally found in a circus or zoological garden.

Restricted animals, requiring special permits include exotic livestock, domesticated ferrets or miniature pigs. Miniature pigs can't exceed 100 pounds, and no more than two adult restricted animals that exceed 35 pound each are permitted on premises that contain less than one acre.

The proposed legislation will be discussed at council's next meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 7, in council chambers.