A push to try to end the city's ban against pit bulls is pitting resident against resident and is proving to be a contentious issue among Reynoldsburg City Council members.
In a 3-2 vote Monday, Feb. 24, with one member absent, council approved an ad hoc committee to study the city's ordinance on vicious dogs. The decision was not without a heated discussion on just who was allowed on the committee.
Council President Doug Joseph presented names of people to serve on the committee, saying he and Councilman Dan Skinner had worked on the list together.
He said the committee would study the city's entire vicious dog ordinance.
"We need to get expert testimony on this issue," he said. "We need to look at the science behind the issue."
People recommended for the committee were: Stephen J. Smith, an attorney with Frost Brown Todd, who has experience prosecuting canine cases; Dr. Joel Melin, a Reynoldsburg veterinarian and founder of the Animal Care Hospital of Reynoldsburg; Dr. Heath Jolliff, a former Nationwide Children's Hospital Emergency Department physician with experience in treating dog bite victims; Scott Mueller, a Reynoldsburg-area professional dog trainer; Joe Rock, director of Franklin County Animal Control; Mark McKenzie, a Reynoldsburg resident and Monica DeBrock, a former Reynoldsburg City Council member.
Non-voting members of the ad hoc committee will be Reynoldsburg City Attorney Jed Hood and Police Chief Jim O'Neill.
A similar list was shot down by a 3-2 council vote Nov. 12, with members Chris Long, Leslie Kelly, Cornelius McGrady III and Mel Clemens voting against it because, they said, the list was not balanced between people wanting the ban to stay in place and those who wanted to lift it.
Kelly and Long both opposed the new list at the Feb. 24 meeting until three more names were added -- former school board member Ryan Brzezinski and city residents Carrie Acosta and Bruce Sowell.
"I can't support this as it is unless you have more residents that could vote in our community," Kelly said.
Sowell spoke against lifting the ban.
"My concern is the kids who live next door to me," he said. "Just because Powell doesn't ban the dogs any more doesn't mean we should change our policy. What works for Powell doesn't work for us. My whole thought on this process is no."
Sandy Wester-Weiler said she agreed with Sowell.
"Pit bulls are known sources of violence and tragedy," she said. "If you, as a collective group, are not able to put on big boy pants to make this decision, you should put it up to a citywide vote."
Joseph said adding members to the committee who are not dog experts would mean a less efficient committee.
"I think it would be a total waste of time to come up with an ad hoc committee that won't change anything," he said. "We wanted to have people on the list who have some expertise."
He argued that the larger the committee, the less efficient it might be.
Kelly said she and Long had submitted possible names to Joseph, which she said he ignored.
"You were talking about replacing dog experts with people who have already spoken out against pit bulls," Joseph said.
He said it appeared Kelly wanted a "show trial" instead of an efficient study of the issue.
"I take offense that you think adding these people would make it a show trial," Kelly said.
Joseph said putting a large number of people on the committee would make it "a dog-and-pony show."
"We have had this law into effect for decades, but some things about it may have to change," he said. "This committee will study the issue and make recommendations to the council."
Clemens said he is satisfied with the ordinance.
"We have messed with both sides long enough," he said. "We may not know all the things the experts do, but I think we are all here to make the decision."
Long, Skinner and Scott Barrett voted to approve the new list with the names added, while Clemens and McGrady III voted against it.
Joseph said the target start date for the committee to start its study is March 5 and the completion date is May 7. The goal is to give recommendations to council by May 12.