Tempers flared during the June 10 Whitehall City Council meeting regarding pending vicious/dangerous dog legislation.
Councilwoman Jackie Thompson lead off with questions and demanded "yes" or "no" answers regarding Councilman Bob Bailey’s vicious/dangerous dog legislation, which will receive a second reading at council’s meeting
Thompson thinks "pit bull" should be included in the ordinance’s wording. Bailey referred each of her questions to specific sections of the ordinance for more detailed explanations. He is confident that a section referring back to following the laws of the Ohio Revised Code will address pit bulls. Thompson’s proposed ban of pit bulls was defeated at council’s June 3 meeting.
Bailey’s ordinance states that it is the consensus of all major animal organizations that breed neutral, rather than breed specific laws, are the most effective way to legislate animal issues. It is a further consensus that major studies have recognized that aggression in dogs can almost always be traced to abuse or neglect. Bailey is pushing for placing the burden of animal behavior back on the owners to make them more responsible.
Animals will not be allowed to run loose in Whitehall, except for wildlife. Dogs will have to be under direct control at all times, whether on their owner’s property or taking a walk.
The city does have a leash law, and owners must clean up after their dogs.
The ordinance also protects the dogs from cruel treatment, poisoning and fighting for sport. Landlords will have shared liability, meaning the owner or tenant of any residence may be considered the owner/keeper/harborer of any vicious or dangerous dog that resides on the premises. The hope is to force landlords to tighten up leases where pets are concerned.
Legislative definitions for dogs
•Vicious dog means a dog that, without provocation has killed or caused serious injury to a person or another animal, as well as one trained to attack. It excludes police dogs.
•Dangerous dog means one that without provocation has chased or approached in either a menacing fashion or an apparent attitude of attack, or has attempted to bite, or otherwise endanger human or an animal that is the property of another person, while that dog is off premises of its owner.
•When a dog that is declared dangerous is on its own property, it must always be securely confined in a locked pen, which has a top, or locked yard enclosed in a six foot fence behind the building line. A dangerous dog sign must be visibly displayed. When off premises, it must be on a chain link leash or tether no more than four feet long controlled by a person at least 18 years old and muzzled.
•If a dog is declared vicious, the law will basically be the same but will also include the owner providing $100,000 of liability insurance, having the dog micro-chipped, providing Whitehall Police Department microchip information, providing identifying photos of the dog, and spaying and neutering. There are also stipulations if there is a change of ownership.
Several times the discussions among council members grew heated, but Thompson seemed to further anger her colleagues when she indicated that she thinks the men of council do not care about the safety of citizens.
Councilmen Leo Knoblauch, Wes Kantor and Chris Rodriguez bristled and responded to Thompson, assuring her that they have the best interest, where safety is concerned, for all community members.
At times the conversation became loud and out of control, forcing Council President Brent Howard to rein it in.
Howard told Thompson that her remarks were inappropriate. Rodriguez called them sexist. On June 3 her proposed ban of pit bulls was defeated, only receiving one other favorable vote from fellow council member, Leslie LaCorte.
Thompson also reiterated there are many elderly people who fear retribution if they call the police department to report a problem. Knoblauch said that if anyone in Ward 3 feels that way, to call him, and he will contact the proper authorities for them.
Bailey said he is confident his legislation will adequately deal with offenders, and force owners to be more responsible.
Other Whitehall news
•Thompson asked Service Director Ray Ogden about regulations for inflatable pools that are peppered throughout the city. Ogden said there must be a four foot fence if the pool has 18 inches or more of water.
•The much anticipated Tim Horton’s has begun construction.
•The service garage on Poth Road will host an open house on June 20 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.