Despite recommendations from a city-appointed ad hoc committee and pleas from dog owners and groups seeking the repeal of breed-specific legislation, Reynoldsburg City Council upheld the city's ban on pit bulls.
"I think keeping the law is what a tremendous number of our community members want us to do," Councilman Barth Cotner said at the Monday, July 28, council meeting. "A lot of people have specifically said to me, 'I don't want pit bulls in my neighborhood.'
"I get around to a lot of places in town and talk to a lot of people," he said. "The vast majority I talked to opposed lifting the ban. Some had misinformation on the breed, but we can't ignore there is still a great deal of concern about these dogs. And I have to admit if I lived next to a pit bull, I would have a greater sense of alert about my kids."
Council voted 5-1 in regular session Monday to turn down a revision of the definition of a vicious dog, which would have lifted the ban on pit bulls.
Members of two local groups -- Pit Bulls for Reynoldsburg and Citizens for a Breed Neutral Reynoldsburg -- have protested the ban since last July.
Council members responded by appointing the ad hoc committee, which ultimately suggested the city should follow state law and repeal breed-specific legislation that identifies only pit bulls as "vicious and dangerous," making it against the law to harbor the breed within city limits.
Lori Schwartzkopf, a member of both groups, said the council "voted for fear."
"Fear and ignorance prevailed," she said. "This is not a surprise, because the council has largely ignored all the information we've sent them on statistics of dog bites and scientific evidence. I know they ignored it, because they never asked any questions."
She said groups against breed-specific legislation will continue to work to educate residents and will include information for residents at reynoldsburgdogs.com and on its Facebook page, "Pit Bulls for Reynoldsburg."
Councilman Dan Skinner was the only member to vote in favor of the ad hoc committee's definitions recommendation.
"I am not really pro or against pit bulls," he said after the vote. "But I did want us to stay more consistent with state law. When the committee did their review of our animal ordinance, they did not find any reasons that make pit bulls more dangerous than others."
When asked if he thought the old ordinance, which does not even have a firm leash law, should be revised, he said, "I'm open to revisiting the ordinance to help residents stay safe."
Tammy Nortman, a lawyer from Dayton who is representing 12 Reynoldsburg residents fighting citations for harboring pit bulls, said the city is "ignoring the science" that confirms a pit bull's bite is not any more dangerous than any other large dog's bite.
"We have given you the science and the experts on this issue and (a) former Franklin County Animal Control officer said it is impossible to properly identify the mixed breeds," she said, addressing council members before the vote. "Your police officers are guessing every time they try to identify a pit bull.
"You are also not giving citizens due process when you give them a citation and order them to remove the dogs within seven days," she said.
She said the pit bull owners she is representing are responsible dog owners and their dogs did not exhibit any bad behavior when they were cited.
"There have been 12 dog bites in the past 18 months in this city and not one of those owners was cited," she said.
Monica DeBrock, a former councilwoman and a member of the ad hoc committee, which studied the city's animal ordinance line by line for three months, said, "I think it is a sad day."
She said council members ignored the "thorough research" the committee did on pit bulls and breed-specific legislation, along with recommendations to adopt the state language for uncontroversial sections, such as rules for keeping wild and exotic animals.
"It doesn't mater if a dog is aggressive or not in this city -- it's all based on looks," she said.
She said the ad hoc committee tried to strengthen the animal ordinance to punish bad dog owners, not a certain breed of dog.
Bruce Sowell, who also served on the ad hoc committee, but did not agree with lifting the ban, said, "I am glad that the citizens of Reynoldsburg were heard tonight."
"There are no winners or losers," he said. "Our city has been safe because this law is in effect. This issue dealt with citizen safety and taxpayer dollars. I'm sure there may be room for improvement in the animal ordinance, but the ban (against pit bulls) should stay in place."