Reynoldsburg News

Ad hoc committee

Most favor state definition of 'vicious' dog

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Reynoldsburg's ad hoc committee studying current city law may be closer to consensus as a majority of members said last week they accept the state's definition of a dangerous or vicious dog.

A few, however, still favor keeping the citywide ban on pit bulls.

The committee is expected to give a final recommendation on ways to improve the city's animal ordinance by May 27.

Reynoldsburg's animal ordinance defines a vicious dog as one that has killed a person or dog, or has caused serious injury to a person. Pit bull type dogs are lumped under that category by breed and are banned from city limits.

State law defines a vicious dog as any that, "without provocation has killed or caused serious injury to any person" and is not breed specific.

Committee chairman Stephen Smith, former school board member Monica DeBrock, dog trainer Scott Mueller and local veterinarian Joel Melin said at the group's April 30 meeting they favor the state definition and want the pit bull ban dropped.

"I want to punish bad dogs and bad owners -- that is who we should be trying to reach," Smith said. "The only part of the law currently being enforced is the pit bull language."

DeBrock said city code should be tightened in regard to leash and tethering laws.

Mueller said it is unfair to responsible dog owners to ban pit bulls as a breed.

"If these dogs and all dogs are socialized properly, there should not be an issue," he said. "Punish bad owners, not the breed."

Melin couldn't make it to the April 30 meeting, so he sent an email letter.

"We have heard enough information and seen enough data that clearly indicates the breed commonly known as pit bull is neither universally dangerous nor vicious," he wrote.

"Also, the ability to determine which dog is or is not a pit bull is a significant factor ... The fact is, with or without BSL (breed-specific language), people can be harmed by dogs of any breed."

He said if there is no consensus over the pit bull issue, then it would be "remiss" not to ban other large-dog breeds in Reynoldsburg that could potentially injure or kill people. He said many large dog breeds are potentially dangerous.

Committee members Bruce Sowell and Carrie Acosta favor keeping the ban in place, while Mark McKenzie said he is not in favor of singling out one breed to be banned.

Sowell said the state's legislation "is a weaker code."

"These dogs attack without warning," he said. "Reynoldsburg has been proactive when it comes to prohibiting these dogs and I think that's a good thing. I think there are good owners of these dogs out there, but we can't take the chance that what happened over the weekend could happen to one of our children."

Sowell referred to a recent incident in which a 4-year-old boy lost his ear when a pit bull in Columbus attacked him.

Acosta said the city should adopt the state definition of "vicious" but still ban pit bulls.

"I feel this group of dogs has been targeted by the wrong kind of people," she said. "I don't think Reynoldsburg is ready to allow pit bulls in the city or can spare the money to monitor the situation."

"Maybe we need something in between," McKenzie said. "I would go with the state definition of vicious dog but I am not in favor of labeling pit bull dogs as vicious. If you label them that way and give examples of what makes them dangerous, then it only takes one example of a pit bull that does not have those characteristics to dispute that."

Reynoldsburg Police Chief Jim O'Neill is also on the committee, but is not a voting member. He said he would go with the state definition of a vicious dog, but thinks the ban against pit bulls should stay in place, with a clearer definition.

"I'm not lumping all pit bull owners as law-breakers, but certainly a lot of people who deal drugs and have a disregard for laws do harbor pit bulls, so the easiest ways for us to deal with that is to cast a wide net," he said.

The next ad hoc committee meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 14.

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