Cincinnati moves to revise ordinance that regulates pit bulls

File Photo
File Photo

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Council is taking steps to change a local ordinance so that pit bulls would no longer be banned in the city.

All council members have come out in support of the effort with the exception of Cecil Thomas.

"What is most important out of all of this?" Thomas questioned. "To satisfy an owner because of singling out or is it to protect folks from being attacked by these animals?"

Thomas believes council members should wait before amending the law.

"Now is not the time to relax the rules without having a clear, defined methodology for how we're going to enforce the law on those irresponsible owners," he argued.

Fellow council members, however, argue the current law unfairly singles out pit bull owners.

"Not only is it not fair but it's just not justified," fellow council member Yvette Simpson argued. "People's perceptions about pit bulls are not really true."

Simpson says pinning the blame on one breed creates a false sense of security when, in reality, all dogs have the potential to become vicious when in the wrong hands. Simpson says she hopes families who have left the city in order to keep their dogs will consider moving back when the ordinance changes.

Council members are not the only ones frustrated by the wording of the ordinance, which singles out pit bulls.

"That's not fair because we all know it's a certain few that are causing the problems," argued Bobby Schaefer, owner of Blue Dog K9 Care. Schaefer argues the community should "blame the deed, not the breed"

Daron Rhodes of Price Hill disagrees, however.

"It's not wrong that they're singled out because it is what it is. I've seen what pit bulls can do," Rhodes said. Rhodes helped save a young boy from a pit bull attack in February and says he can understand why the law is written the way it is.

"They can keep it the same if it's up to me," Rhodes said. "They shouldn't change it."

The motion passed by a council committee would remove breed-specific language from the city ordinance. The motion requires the city Administration to not only revise the language of the ordinance, but to create a task force that will evaluate the laws currently on the books that reference pit bulls. The motion states the task force should be composed of the following members:

1. A representative from the City Prosecutor's office

2. A representative from the Cincinnati Police Department

3. A representative from SPCA Cincinnati

4. A veterinarian

5. A representative from the animal rescue community.

The motion requests that a report on national best practices, state law, and other sources be presented to council members within 90 days.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls says if this law is passed, it would, "align the city's vicious dog law with the new state law." The motion states that with the recent passage of Ohio House Bill 14, it was time for the city to review their own laws regarding "vicious" and "dangerous" dogs. Documents state the goal of the revision is to "meet current standards of humane treatment of animals and establish increased responsibilities for owners to insure irresponsible owners are held accountable, thereby furthering the public safety of the community."

In District 3, police say the most recent statistics available show pit bull calls make up over forty percent of the animal calls made to police. As a result, the district created a program in 2011 to enforce the current city ordinance.

"If the pit bulls are a call for service drain, if they are a danger to the community, if there's observation by the officers, we'll enforce whatever code is on the books," Capt. Russ Neville explained. "Currently the Cincinnati municipal code identifies pit bulls as a law violation."

Right now, violating the law is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, meaning you could go to jail for 180 days, and/or pay up to $1000 fine.

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