Whitehall Council gets another idea for controlling dogs

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Whitehall City Councilwoman Jackie Thompson is no longer the only one with a dog in the fight over animal-control legislation.

At the April 22 committee meeting, Councilman Bob Bailey presented draft legislation that he wants council to consider regarding vicious and dangerous dogs, as opposed to Thompson’s proposed law banning pit bulls.

"It is necessary that we resolve this issue.  We need to reach middle ground.," Bailey said. "Based on the information we have received and testimony we have heard, I believe we can arrive at a solution.  The five drafts represent a comprehensive, community-based approach."

 

Outlining his proposal, Bailey broke it down more specifically as to how his proposal would operate:

•Enforcement would be based on the actions and behavior of the dog, not the breed.

•The law would be focused on the proper care and treatment of pets.

•It would be intended to enhance the current code.

•It would be respectful of personal property rights.

•It would recognize the Ohio Revised Code.

•It would provide for an appeals process.

•It would protect the city from unnecessary financial expense and legal action.

•It would place accountability on the owner, keeper or harborer of the animal.

Bailey sticks by his belief that banning a specific breed will not solve problems with vicious or dangerous dogs, and that making owners accountable for their pets will better address the issue.  

In his proposal he also has elements for protecting animals from bad owners, as well as offering educational opportunities.  He would like to see the schools teach children about how to approach a strange dog, or what to do if one is aggressive.  

At the same time, he wants to provide resources to teach people how to properly train and care for their animals.

Residents would still be allowed to have three dogs in their home, no matter the breed.  If an animal is deemed vicious, they would have to get an identifying microchip inserted, and register that with the Whitehall Police Department.  

They would also have to obtain $100,000 in liability insurance and comply with fencing and containment specifications.  When walking the dog off the owner’s property, it would be required to be muzzled and be on a four-foot leash.

There would be an appeals board, which has been a big concern with City Attorney Mike Shannon regarding Thompson’s proposed legislation.  That board would consist of five electors appointed by the mayor in the same manner as the Board of Zoning and Building Appeals and Planning Commission.

Bailey also wants to arrange for low-cost spaying and neutering services, to work with Ohio rescue organizations to address cats and dogs running loose, and to establish a dog-fighting task force, as well as a tip line to report dog-fighting activity.

Another section of Bailey’s proposal would make landlords accountable if they are renting to owners of vicious dogs.

Thompson said that she has every intention of going forward with her legislation for a council vote, even knowing that she is receiving no support from fellow council members.  

She made a promise to voters during her campaign that she would try to ban pit bulls, and she said that she prefers that her supporters be assured that she followed  through on her promise, and that council as a whole voted it down.

Thompson’s concern with Bailey’s proposal is that it doesn’t identify pit bulls as a vicious dog, as does the Ohio Revised Code.  

However, Shannon, who is making amendments to tighten up language in the ordinance, said that the wording in the proposal will make references to the state law in a manner that, if the law changes, Whitehall will be in line, and not have to change anything.  

Thompson also has proposed legislation for dealing with noisy animals, and proposes that barking dogs not be outside between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. unless accompanied by an adult to keep them under control.  

Councilwoman Leslie LaCorte thinks the residents are going to start feeling as if council is targeting all animal owners.  

"I just don’t think the timing for this is right after all of the conversation and controversy regarding pit bulls," said LaCorte.

Councilman Leo Knoblauch reiterated that the current noise ordinance Whitehall has should be sufficient when there is a problem reported.

 

Prior to opening the committee meetings, Mayor John Wolfe introduced new Parks and Recreation Director Jim Siekel, who is coming to the city from Massillon, Ohio.  

"I’ve been very impressed with Jim, and I feel he will do a fantastic job," Wolfe said.  

Siekel said that he is very excited about coming to Whitehall, and looks forward to getting to know members of the community.  

The next council meeting will be May 6 at 7 p.m.

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