Whitehall City Councilwoman Jackie Thompson still wants to go ahead with her proposed pit bull ban, but other members questioned whether the law would really have any teeth.
And City Attorney Mike Shannon is researching the implications of the legislation to make sure it doesn’t come back to bite council in the form of a lawsuit.
Thompson announced that she wants to go with the proposal that will grandfather in current pit bull owners, allowing them to keep their dogs, with restrictions. They would have to be registered with the city prior to passage of legislation.
Shannon wants further opinions from the Ohio Attorney General’s office regarding an appeals process and assuring that residents will receive their due process.
Shannon told Thompson that after he gets more information from other cities with a pit bull ban, and from the attorney general, it could then be integrated into the proposed legislation.
Thompson said that she felt as though Shannon was attempting to make her proposal null and void. Shannon responded that he wants to make sure such legislation is constitutional.
"I don’t want to see anyone held personally liable if it is discrimination," Shannon said.
Shannon explained that he wants to get further information for an appeals process. He said that he would not be doing his job as the city’s legal counsel if he didn’t gather the information, and assure its constitutionality.
He pointed out that if he offers his advice, and it is not followed, council members could lose legislative immunity in a legal battle, leaving themselves open to individual law suits.
Councilman Leo Knoblauch said that he would rather get rid of all vicious dogs rather than the specific breed.
Shannon shared that Reynoldsburg has a pit bull ban on the books, but they don’t enforce it, because of lack of personnel. Like Whitehall, Reynoldsburg has no animal control officer.
Councilman Jim Graham told Thompson that she’s making every pit bull guilty that walks down the street, because of the bad ones.
Graham continued to ask how it would be enforced.
"I think we are going about this all wrong," stated Graham. "If a person owns a dog, they have to be responsible for it. Any dog has the opportunity to bite or go off his rocker."
He added that the responsibility should be put upon the owners for all dogs, and the city should make them pay for their animal’s bad behavior.
Regarding enforcement, Thompson said that code enforcement officers could handle the situations as they came up.
Graham, Shannon and fellow council members bristled at this, saying that it would have to be the responsibility of the police department and Franklin County Animal Control.
Vicious dog issues do not fall in the code enforcement officer’s job descriptions, and code officers are not armed.
Thompson said that police Chief Richard Zitzke has assured her that his department would enforce it every way possible.
In other business, Service Director Ray Ogden presented council with a draft ordinance that would require yard sale permits to be issued from his department rather than Mayor John Wolfe’s office.
He said that all other types of permits go through his office, so it makes sense for consistency. It is only during spring clean- up that permits for yard sales are not required. This year’s clean-up dates are April 29 – May 9.
The Planning Commission will hear a case for a special permit to allow a drive-in window at 3965 E. Broad Street, the future home of a new Tim Horton’s. Council will hold a public hearing on May 6.
Four resolutions will be coming up authorizing the mayor to accept grants from Wal-Mart, with no matching funds required. The senior center will receive $1,000 for bus trips; $5,000 is earmarked for the police department and service department to combat vandalism and graffiti; $1,500 will go to parks and recreation for equipment; and $2,500 will go for the fire department’s participation in Project Lifesaver.
Council will also soon vote to hire a full-time employee to handle everyday technology needs. Currently an employee from the auditor’s office and a police officer does most of the troubleshooting, along with an outside source that charges $85 an hour.
The salary range will top off at $65,000 plus benefits. It would enable two employees to devote more time to their own positions.
The next council meeting will be April 1 at 7 p.m.