Veterinarian defends pit bulls; plus council considers urban chickens and city improvements

By Dustin Ensinger
Staff Writer

A Reynoldsburg veterinarian with three decades of experience treating dogs asked Reynoldsburg city Council to drop its ban of pit bulls.

Dr. Joel Melin, a member of the ad hoc committee that recommended the city adopt breed neutral legislation, said pit bulls are no more likely to be aggressive than any other breed.

“There are breeds other than pit bulls that I would have more concern with walking in my exam room,” said Melin.

Councilman Barth Cotner asked Melin whether he muzzles dogs that come to his office and whether the decision is based on breed.

Melin said some dogs are muzzled. However, it is based off of behavior, specifically whether the dog acts aggressively.

He said the dogs that are muzzled are “more small dogs actually than large dogs.”

Cotner expressed concern about the severity of injuries inflicted in pit bull attacks.

Melin said any large breed is capable of causing major damage by biting.

“There are certainly many other breeds that have inflicted fatal bites,” Melin said.

But not all members of the ad hoc committee agree with Melin’s assessment. Bruce Sowell, who was part of the minority that narrowly lost the vote to recommend the changes to council, reminded council members of several recent pit bull attacks that have been featured in national media.

“There is no amount of insurance, no amount of money that could be paid for the mauling of a child,” Sowell said. “These dogs attack without warning.”

The legislation addressing the pit bull issue is scheduled to be voted on at its second reading at the July 28 council meeting.

If approved, it would bring the city in line with a 2012 change in state law that 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.”

Urban chickens

Council is debating revamping the city’s entire ordinance regulating animals, including a provision that bans chickens in the city.

The ad hoc committee that studied the ordinance recommended that homeowners living in areas zoned as residential be allowed to house up to six chickens in their back yards.

Jane Cline, a resident of Reynoldsburg for 41 years, said she grew up on a farm and has first-hand knowledge that chickens are unsanitary animals.

She said would regularly get lice from cleaning out the chicken coop on her New York farm as a child. Worse, she said, was what she was cleaning.

“Chicken poop stinks – bad,” Cline told council members as she asked them to continue to the ban on the animals.

“Reynoldsburg is a city,” Cline said. “And farm animals are farm animals.”

Old Reynoldsburg improvements

Council unanimously passed a measure to prepare bid documents to replace the city’s brick crosswalks with asphalt. The measure also takes the same step toward paving an empty lot for to provide additional parking in the area.

Former councilwoman Monica DeBrock opposed both projects, saying the brick crosswalks have aesthetic appeal and the parking lot is a temporary solution.

“This is a prime location for development,” DeBrock said.

The lot would not have been purchased by the city if it is such a hot spot for development, Director of Public Service Nathan Burd replied.

“It’s temporary until something comes along,” Burd said. “That could be decades.”

According to Burd, replacing the bricks  would add more than $200,000 to the project. And it would add to the cost over the long term. In the past week, 13 bricks were displacing during a rainstorm, forcing the city to call out workers on overtime to patch the hole.

Council agreed with his assessment.

“While they’re beautiful, they’re not sustainable right now,” said Councilwoman Leslie Kelly.

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