Reynoldsburg News

Eight-member committee will review pit bull law

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Eight people have been named to an ad hoc committee to review Reynoldsburg's law concerning dangerous dogs, which specifically bans pit bulls and labels them as "vicious and dangerous."

The committee members are:

•Stephen J. Smith, an attorney who has experience with breed-specific issues, including the prosecution of canine cases as the law director for Grove City and assistant law director in the city of Dublin.

•Dr. Joel Melin, Reynoldsburg veterinarian and founder of the Animal Care Hospital of Reynoldsburg.

•Dr. Heath Jolliff, Nationwide Children's Hospital emergency department physician.

•Bradley Hauser, Reynoldsburg resident and representative of Pit Bulls for Reynoldsburg.

•Paula Evans, humane agent with the Licking County Humane Society.

•Scott Mueller, a Reynoldsburg-area dog trainer professional and founder of the National K-9 School for Dog Trainers.

•Jed Hood, Reynoldsburg's city attorney.

•Jim O'Neill, Reynoldsburg's police chief.

Council President Doug Joseph introduced legislation at council's Nov. 12 meeting naming the eight to the ad hoc committee. It was approved by a 3-2 vote, with Councilman Scott Barrett absent.

Council members Barth Cotner, Monica DeBrock and Chris Long voted in favor and Mel Clemens and Cornelius McGrady III voted against formation of the committee.

"People elected me to make decisions and that is what I do," Clemens said in explaining why he voted against establishing the ad hoc committee.

"I vote for the good of Ward 4 and I intend to continue to do that," he added.

Hauser and other members of Pit Bulls for Reynoldsburg have been contacting council members and showing up at council meetings since July to ask that city officials reconsider Reynoldsburg's breed-specific legislation.

Speaking at the Nov. 4 safety committee meeting, Melin quoted an American Veterinary Medical Association article that stated how difficult it is to enforce breed-specific legislation, since a dog's breed cannot be easily determined, especially if it is a mixed breed.

"My experience over 35 years of practice is that it is not a breed problem, but either an individual animal issue or owner-driven behavior," Melin said.

"By all means, dogs that are dangerous and their owners should be held responsible for their actions," he said. "It is not right to state any breed is going to be dangerous and therefore ban or restrict all."

Hauser said he was pleased to be appointed to the committee.

"I believe that the committee represents robust perspective, experience and expertise and will provide solid recommendations to the City Council," he said. "Whether council listens to those recommendations remains to be seen."

In a related issue, Reynoldsburg resident Leazaun Thornton told council Nov. 12 she thinks her dog was unfairly targeted by police and Councilman Barrett.

Thornton was cited Nov. 1 for harboring a pit bull, but she said her dog is a cross between a Cane Corso and a Presa Canario and is considered to be a mastiff breed, not a pit bull.

She said police cited her shortly after Barrett saw her walking her dog in Huber Park.

"Councilman Barrett crossed the street to ask me if I knew there was a ban on pit bulls in the city," she said. "I told him my dog is not a pit bull. Two days later, a police officer stopped me and cited me. I don't think this is a coincidence."

According to a police report filed about the citation, a Reynoldsburg officer took a photo of the dog and showed it to Franklin County dog warden Joe Rock, who identified the dog as a pit bull.

Barrett said in an email that he did remember talking to the Thornton about her dog, but said he did not call police.

"But if she does have an animal that violates our code, she should be held to the same responsibilities as every other resident," Barrett wrote.

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