Reynoldsburg reconsidering Pit Bull ban

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By Christine Bryant
Staff Writer

The section of the city of Reynoldsburg’s code of ordinances that deals with vicious animals soon may see a language change.

Currently, Reynoldsburg includes breed specific language when referring to vicious dogs under the “Animals and Fowl” chapter of the code, specifically naming “Pit-Bull” as a vicious breed. Under the current code, residents within city limits cannot own or harbor this breed of dog.

However, at the Jan. 22 public safety, law and courts committee meeting of city council, Ward 3 representative Marshall Spalding proposed to repeal the section of the code that includes breed-specific language.

“Reynoldsburg is one of the last few cities in the area now that still has breed-specific language in their vicious dog act,” he said.

He cited the issue of enforceability as another reason to remove the section. Under the ordinance, police may cite a person for harboring a Pit-Bull within city limits. However, after the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Ohio overruled a trial court that had originally ruled in the city’s favor, Reynoldsburg stopped enforcing the ordinance in Licking County, which is part of the Fifth District, City Attorney Jed Hood said.

Though most of the city falls within the Tenth District Court of Appeals, which has not yet ruled on the matter, Acting Chief Bill Early said in general, the police department’s involvement in these matters only occurs when somebody is bitten.

“We will take a police report and the reason for that is so we can ensure that the person that’s been bitten gets verification from the owner of the dog that it had its shots and all that,” he said.

Since the Fifth District Court of Appeals ruling in Licking County, Early said he doesn’t recall any other residents being cited under the current ordinance for having a Pit-Bull.

At-Large Council Member Stacie Baker noted the city of Columbus removed its Pit-Bull ban after coming to the conclusion it wasn’t being enforced. The city now follows the Ohio Revised Code, which specifically speaks to vicious dogs of any breed, he said.

“I don’t see why we should just keep them on because a vicious dog is a vicious dog, no matter what kind of breed it is or how it was raised,” Baker said.

Mel Clemens, who represents the city’s fourth ward, isn’t so sure, however.

He says it doesn’t matter what other communities are doing and that his constituents in his ward have expressed their desire for the city to keep the ordinance as-is, even if it’s not being enforced.

“We’ve got to worry about what happens in Reynoldsburg, the safety of the people here, safety of the kids, and that’s all I’m interested in,” Clemens said. “I’m not interested in everybody else around the nation. I’m interested right here about Reynoldsburg and the people that are here, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Although he agrees it’s best to focus on Reynoldsburg, Baker said there are many residents who aren’t happy with the ordinance’s current language as well.

“Any dog can be vicious,” he said. “It just that what’s been going on over the years about the breed of Pit-Bulls has been giving them a bad name, which I don’t think it’s right because not all of them are bad.”

Council President Doug Joseph says over the decades, various breeds of dogs have been labeled “vicious,” though some perceptions have changed.

“I remember back in the ‘80s the Doberman Pinscher was the dog everybody was scared of,” he said. “Then it was the Rottweiler. The biggest change between then and now is that we’ve had the Fifth District Court rule that it’s unenforceable and we have not enforced anywhere in the city.”

Brett Luzader, who represents the second ward, also suggested looking at the ordinance as a whole to see if any other language could be strengthened regarding vicious animals.

The proposed ordinance change will be discussed again during the next public safety, law and courts committee meeting Feb. 12. In the meantime, Hood said he will prepare a memo pointing out any differences between the Ohio Revised Code and the city’s current code that includes a breed-specific component.

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