By Rick Palsgrove
Leave your pet at home if you plan to attend one of the city of Groveport’s festivals in the future.
By a 5-1 vote, Groveport City Council approved legislation prohibiting people from bringing their animals to city sponsored event and festival areas. These include the Fourth of July celebration, Apple Butter Day, Kids Fest, and any other city supported or sponsored event as determined by the city administrator. The city administrator will define the designated event areas where the law will apply. The ordinance does not apply to guide or service dogs, police dogs, animal exhibits at the events, or pets on residential properties within the event area. Violation of the law will be a minor misdemeanor.
Councilman Scott Lockett was the lone dissenting vote because he believes the control of animals should ultimately be the responsibility of pet owners.
“I’m opposed to this because there are too many gray areas,” said Lockett. “It’s overkill and it will be tough to enforce. It puts the police in a rough situation.”
Lockett gave the example of the recent Arbor Day event at Groveport Elementary.
“What if ‘Aunt Betty’ was walking by with her little dog and stopped at the Arbor Day event? Would we have to ask her to leave?” asked Lockett.
Lockett also questioned what impact the law will have on people bringing their pets to things like the Fourth of July parade.
“Events like the parade are not self-contained,” said Lockett.
Groveport City Administrator Marsha Hall said this law does not apply to the Fourth of July parade.
“It just applies to defined festival and event areas,” said Hall, who added signs will be put up at the boundary limits of the event areas informing visitors of the animal restrictions.
Councilman Shawn Cleary said the city took the action to find medium ground that protects everyone, both animals and humans, at the festivals.
Added Councilwoman Jean Ann Hilbert, “I also worry about dogs getting hurt or eating something they shouldn’t while at the festivals.”
At a previous council meeting, Councilwoman Becky Hutson said, “At our festivals we have food, elderly people, and children. Adding people’s animals is not a good mix.”
Councilman Ed Dildine previously stated, “If someone loses control of a dog, who knows what could happen.”
Groveport Police Chief Ralph Portier said laws like this one are often difficult to enforce.
“I expect a slight backlash of dog owners because they will feel the city has decided not to be dog friendly,” said Portier. “This couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is about allowing those attending the event to have fun, not worry about stepping in animal feces, or even hearing dogs barking while programs are in session.”
According to Portier, police officers will have discretion to deal with each incident on a case-to-case basis.
“It is going to dependent on how the person reacts to following the rules,” said Portier.
Portier said fines for violation of this law are set by the court, but any violation of these rules can result in a criminal record and a fine plus court costs.