As Whitehall City Councilwoman Jackie Thompson introduced her ordinance banning pit bulls for its first reading May 6, residents on both sides of a recent dog attack said the incident has been blown out of proportion.
According to police reports, on April 27 three dogs, identified as pit bulls, escaped their yard, charging Andrew Slaga, who was walking his dog on Beaver Avenue.
Slaga received bite wounds when he tried to separate the animals, and his dog required medical attention.
The owner of the dogs, Roy Bryson, said that he had hurried out of his back yard, and had not secured the fence properly, allowing the dogs to get out.
Slaga’s daughter, Amy, told council members that it was not a vicious attack, and that the dogs are not pit bulls.
Being able to distinguish a pit bull from look-alike breeds has been a bone of contention in the debate.
Slaga stated that Bryson has been accountable for the accident, and her parents’ dog is fine. She also made it known that she opposes a ban on pit bulls, citing feral cats as being more of a problem.
Bryson said that his dogs are not aggressive, and are not only friendly, but play with neighborhood children. He was upset that he’s been portrayed as a drug dealer.
"I left the gate unlocked. It was my fault," Bryson said. "My dogs are American bulls. Franklin County Animal Control classifies them as pit bulls. My dogs don’t run loose, and since that happened I have replaced all the fencing and new gates."
He and his girlfriend said that they have children in the home, and the dogs have never been aggressive with any of them.
Councilman Wes Kantor said that he went to the scene on April 27, and walked up and down the street talking to Bryson’s neighbors.
"Mr. Bryson, I have spoken with several of your neighbors, and they think very highly of you," Kantor told the resident. "I only found a couple of people who had concerns about the dogs."
He said that neighbors told him that the dogs were friendly, and they allowed their children to play with them.
Kantor said that he also went into Bryson’s back yard, and commended him for installing all the fencing, which includes three locks, at his own expense on a rental property.
Kantor shared that one of the dogs came right up to him, and was friendly.
Bryson was scheduled to appear in court on April 27 for another incident in November. He had three charges of having dogs at-large, three for not having the proper $100,000 liability insurance, two unlicensed dogs, and one quarantine for ten days.
At that hearing, he was given five years probation, fined $200 and court costs with a one-year jail sentence, which was suspended.
According to a representative from Franklin County Animal Control, a hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet for the most recent occurrence.
The ordinance introduced by Thompson, who took office in January, has brought out strong opinions on both sides of the issue.
Resident Ron Little told council that he has been chased three times by pit bulls in Whitehall, and supports Thompson’s proposed legislation to ban them.
Thompson asked Mayor John Wolfe to give a public opinion on the issue.
Wolfe has previously stated that, even though he doesn’t like pit bulls, he doesn’t think that banning a specific breed is the answer.
In other business, council welcomed Tim Horton’s into the city . After a public hearing they approved a drive-through for the much restaurant to be located at 3965 E. Broad Street.
The next council meeting will be May 20 at 7 p.m.