Reynoldsburg News

Cited owners say pet pit bull is loving, obedient

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According to her owners, 2-year-old Nevaeh is obedient and loving, snuggles with her cat "sisters," loves an 8-year-old autistic neighbor and plays happily with another neighbor's grandson.

Chris Fizer and Stephanie Mather say Nevaeh, a pit bull, is a much-loved member of their family.

To Reynoldsburg police officers enforcing a city law, she is a pit bull that must be removed from the city under the terms of a "dangerous or vicious dog" ordinance.

"Our dog is not vicious or aggressive," Fizer said.

Officer Vince Scalmato cited Mather and Fizer March 7 for harboring a pit bull type dog. According to the police report, he went to their home based on an "anonymous complaint" -- but Scalmato also noted he found the dog to be obedient and well-trained.

"I photographed the dog and interacted with it for several minutes," he wrote. "The dog was very obedient and obeyed all verbal commands as given by him and Ms. Mather."

Fizer said Scalmato "shone a spotlight" at his front door March 7.

"Nevaeh was standing just inside the door and the officer came up and asked if he could see her," Fizer said.

In the police report, Scalmato wrote that Fizer stated he "would move out of the city before he got rid of the dog."

"I advised him that I normally give an owner seven days to relocate the dog before issuing a citation," Scalmato wrote in the report. "He stated he was not going to get rid of the dog and welcomed a citation."

City laws classify pit bulls as "vicious" and state they must be removed from city limits.

Fizer and about a dozen supporters of Pit Bulls for Reynoldsburg, an organization with 1,905 supporters following a Facebook page of the same name, attended the Reynoldsburg City Council meeting Monday, March 24.

The group supports legislation that is not breed-specific legislation; members believe dogs should be judged by their behavior, not breed.

They also pointed out the state of Ohio adopted non-breed-specific legislation concerning dangerous dogs in February 2012.

Fizer said he has owned about 10 pit bull dogs in his lifetime.

"I never had a problem with any of the dogs, except one," he said. "She was a rescue dog and had been abused and used for fighting. We had to put her to sleep."

Mather and Fizer said they will fight the citation. Because they live in Licking County, they were able to move the court case to a Licking County court instead of Reynoldsburg Mayor's Court. Fizer said Monday he did not know yet when the case would be heard.

Lori Schwartzkopf, who administers the Facebook page, said the problem with Reynoldsburg's current ordinance is that it is being used to remove dogs that police officers think are pit bulls or pit bull mixes, but is not doing what a dangerous dog ordinance should -- cite owners for having dogs that exhibit vicious or dangerous behavior.

She said an American bulldog was recently cited, even though local veterinarians do not classify it as a pit bull and Ohio Supreme Court case law required a citation be dropped because an American bulldog was not determined to be a pit bull type dog.

Referring to public records from the city police department and Franklin County Animal Control, Schwartzkopf told council Monday 23 citations were written by Reynoldsburg police in 2013 for harboring pit bulls, compared to four in 2012.

"Twenty-two were labeled pit bull type dogs and one dog was not labeled by breed," she said.

"Only two of the dogs actually caused an injury to a human. One was labeled a pit bull and the other was not labeled by breed."

Reynoldsburg police records indicate 13 dogs caused injuries to humans in 2013. Eleven of those dogs were not listed as pit bull type dogs and the other two were listed as pit bulls, Schwartzkopf said.

According to Franklin County Public Health data, also presented by Schwartzkopf, there were 49 dog bites reported in Reynoldsburg in 2013 -- the most in the past 12 years.

Seven of the 49 dogs were mixed-breed dogs; only three were identified as pit bull type dogs, she said. Five of the dogs were identified as Labrador retrievers and three were dachshunds.

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