Whitehall City Council has two pieces of legislation regulating pit bulls, and now they must decide which has more teeth to it, and which one will end up in the dog house.
Council members Jackie Thompson and Bob Bailey both feel they have the better plan. Their peers seem to be leaning towards Bailey’s ordinance, which would not ban the breed, but deal with vicious and dangerous dogs, reflecting the laws of the Ohio Revised Code, which defines a pit bull as vicious.
Bailey’s ordinance reads, "Ohio Revised Code has placed specific requirements and/or regulations regarding the definitions of, and the harboring of ‘dangerous’ and ‘vicious’ animals. Harborers of such animals within the municipality of Whitehall shall do so in accordance with the ORC."
City Attorney Mike Shannon is confident this wording will suffice without the entire section of the code being spelled out.
He also noted that, since both ordinances hold landlords more accountable for who they rent to, he thinks local landlords will have tighter leases, as well.
Councilman Leo Knoblauch pointed out that most ordinances of the city also refer back to the state law, and the fact that the entire wording is not included, has never been challenged.
Shannon did offer that some of the penalties Bailey has suggested are a bit stiff for the crime, and suggested some adjustments.
Bailey agreed and said that his legislation empowers the city to handle the issue, is community-based, and gives code enforcement officers an opportunity to act on the violation, without directly dealing with the dogs.
He said that it does not punish responsible owners who follow the stipulations of the law, by providing the proper $100,000 liability insurance, proper fencing containment, licensing and vaccinations.
Even though state law deems a pit bull vicious, his legislation gives responsible owners a chance to comply. Bailey’s proposal also encompasses any and all breeds of dogs that have been involved in an incident by then declaring them vicious or dangerous.
Whitehall allows three dogs per household.
Thompson’s ordinance would ban pit bulls, but allows those who alrady have a dog to keep it, and requires they be registered with the police department.
However, once the animal has died, the owner cannot get another pit bull. Her legislation will receive a second reading, and Bailey’s a first reading, at the next council meeting.
Councilwoman Leslie LaCorte added that she wants to see a new animal control officer included in the mayor’s 2009 budget.
In other business, council will be giving a third reading to an ordinance regarding noisy animals. Thompson wants to see people stop tying their dogs out all day, or for several hours to bark and annoy their neighbors, as well as better treatment of companion animals.
The ordinance would mean that animals outside between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. would have to be accompanied by a responsible adult to control noise.
Mayor John Wolfe presented council with draft legislation that would eliminate professional offices and clinics as a permitted use in the Poth Road Industrial District.
He cited it as "incompatible with with uses more traditionally deemed appropriate within an industrial district."
According to Council President Brent Howard, this would not affect the once controversial Village Network.
The next council meeting will be May 20 at 7 p.m.