Reynoldsburg News

Ad hoc committee

Report: Lift ban on pit bulls, allow chickens in city

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An ad hoc committee appointed to study Reynoldsburg's animal laws says the city should drop its ban on pit bulls and should allow residents to keep chickens.

Chairman Stephen Smith Jr. gave the group's recommendations to Reynoldsburg City Council May 27.

"One hot topic as we began our study of the city's animal ordinance was the definition of a vicious or dangerous animal," Smith said. "Our recommendations focus on the behavior of an animal or owner and do not focus on one breed.

"The majority decided that was the better way to go because it mirrors state law and would be easier to enforce."

State law does not single out or ban any particular breed of dog, but Reynoldsburg's animal ordinance labels pit bulls as vicious and bans them from the city.

The ad hoc committee suggested dropping breed-specific language after researching state law and surrounding cities' laws. Most cities in central Ohio, except for Bexley and Reynoldsburg, have breed-neutral animal laws or allow pit bulls with certain restrictions.

The group has studied Reynoldsburg's animal ordinance line by line since March 27.

The vote to approve the recommendations was not unanimous, however. Committee members Bruce Sowell and Carrie Acosta both voted no.

"I was in favor of following the state definition of a vicious dog and wanted the ordinance changed," Acosta said. "I thought Reynoldsburg should drop the definition that defined only pit bulls as vicious, but agreed with (Police Chief Jim O'Neil) that the city should address the problem of these dogs being unfairly targeted by a criminal element.

"So I wanted to keep some sort of ban on pit bulls until the money was available to regulate the ownership of these dogs," Acosta added.

Sowell has always maintained that allowing pit bulls in Reynoldsburg is a bad idea.

"The thing the committee still didn't get was that no one is speaking for the victims," he said. "I think it is a bad idea to allow pit bulls into the city. Our law works. It has worked, which is why you don't see the dog bites by pit bulls.

"The state of Ohio says dogs are property and these dogs must be regulated for safety," he said.

Those voting for the recommendations were Smith, an attorney with Frost Brown Todd; Dr. Joel Melin, Reynoldsburg veterinarian, Scott Mueller, founder of the national K-9 Learning Center; former city council member Monica DeBrock; and city resident Mark McKenzie.

So why add chickens?

"We added chickens because the majority of people on the committee voted for that," Smith said. "We thought they could be allowed with restrictions, such as no roosters allowed and a registration requirement."

Other recommendations from the ad hoc group include:

• Requiring all dogs to be leashed whenever they are off their owner's property

• Allowing underground fences only in rear yards

• Not allowing animals closer than 15 feet from a property line.

• Not allowing dogs to be tethered in front yards

• Not allowing dogs to be tethered in backyards for more than six hours in a 24-hour period. Only two of those hours could be unsupervised, with a one-hour period between tethering.

• Not allowing dogs to be tethered between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., other than short periods for the animal to relieve itself.

Members of two local groups -- Pit Bulls for Reynoldsburg and Citizens for a Breed Neutral Reynoldsburg -- have protested the pit bull ban since last July. Council responded by appointing the ad hoc committee.

Pit bull owner Lori Schwartzkopf, representing Citizens for a Breed Neutral Reynoldsburg, said the group is developing a website called ReynoldsburgDogs.com.

"It will state current city legislation plainly so that everyone can understand it and provide a focus for responsible dog ownership, stressing the importance of vaccination, licensing, spaying and neutering," she said.

Reynoldsburg City Council will discuss the recommendations at 7:30 p.m. June 16 at the Reynoldsburg Municipal Building, 7232 E. Main St.

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