By Dustin Ensinger
Pit bulls could soon become as accepted in the eyes of the law in the city of Reynoldsburg as the bullmastiff and the bulldog.
Reynoldsburg City Council’s safety committee voted unanimously July 7 to move a measure to full council to change the city’s law that outlaws pit bulls.
The change in law – recommended by a special committee formed by council – would bring the city in line with state law, which identifies dogs as “vicious” or “dangerous” based on behavior, not breed.
A 2012 change in state law now reserves the “vicious” label for any dog that kills or causes serious injury to someone without provocation. “Dangerous dogs” are defined as those that cause non-serious injuries to a person or kill another dog without provocation.
The city’s current law defines all pit bulls as “vicious.”
Safety committee chairman Chris Long proposed the change in law be fast-tracked under emergency order after the first reading by council.
Councilman Dan Skinner said he felt as though the legislation needs “tightened up” before full council takes up the measure, saying council received the proposed changes with analysis from City Attorney Jed Hood just prior the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
“It leaves us in trouble for challenges down the road,” Skinner said.
Long resisted further debate.
“I do believe there has been ample enough time dedicated to this issue,” Long said. “I don’t agree that all of a sudden this has been sprung.”
However, Long relented and agreed to change the order he called for emergency order to passage after the second reading by full council after first suggesting it be passed after one reading. The final vote is scheduled for the July 28 council meeting.
The definition of “vicious” dogs is just one of many proposed changes by the committee formed to review the city’s ordinance dealing with animals.
The proposed changes – which will be voted on piecemeal – would also strengthen the laws on leashing, tethering and at-large animals. Barking dogs and the possession of exotic animals – which is already banned by the Ohio Revised Code – would also be addressed, among several other parts of the ordinance.
“It’s truly the first time we’ve taken to revising an entire section of our codified ordinances,” said City Attorney Jed Hood.
Among the changes are that it would be illegal to utilize an electric fence to keep a dog confined in a front yard and would prevent dogs from being in public right-of-ways unleashed.
Councilman Scott Barrett questioned how difficult it would be to enforce the proposed laws.
“I’m not sure that the nuts and bolts would be a whole lot different,” Mayor Brad McCloud said in comparison to the current ordinance.
The proposed change would also allow for homeowners living in areas zoned as residential to house up to six chickens in their back yards. A similar measure was debated in 2011 and abandoned.