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Bitch Noone Wanted
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Proposed Pit Bull Ordinance Opens Old Wounds
City eyes clarification to 2008 legislation; Lakewood residents and pit bull owners say questions remain.
By Colin McEwen
A proposal to make changes to the language in the 2008 legislation banning pit bulls in Lakewood is opening some old wounds.

About a half-dozen people attended the city council's public safety committee meeting Monday night to express their dissatisfaction with a proposal aimed at clarifying the language in the ordinance.

Some of them still have questions about the new proposal, while others want to repeal the breed-specific legislation altogether.

The ban, passed in 2008, required residents at that time who owned pit pulls and canary dogs to register the animals, carry special insurance and implant a microchip in the dogs. The measure also ruled that no new pit bulls could live in the city.

The idea behind the new legislation is to outline the process and the obligations of the city - as well as the rights and obligations of dog owners, said Kevin Butler, the city's law director.

"The reason I introduced the legislation was to shore up the procedure in dangerous dogs hearings," he said. "I knew it would invite more criticism with respect to why we have the initial ban in Lakewood."

As the legislation stands, once the city learns that a dog may be a pit bull - or a canary dog - an animal control officer responds and takes photos of the dog in question for further examination. If the division of animal control determines the dog is a pit bull, the owner has 40 days to get rid of the dog.

The new legislation would make hearings - which are not currently mandatory - a standard practice.

"We just think that's better policy," Butler said.

However, one of the issues that audience members have with the ordinance is that those accused of owning a pit bull are responsible for attorney fees and tests to prove their animal is not more than 50 percent pit bull.

"So many questions keep popping up," said Melissa Eischen, who attended the meeting along with five others.

"What happens if the testing is inclusive?"

"What do you do if your dog comes up 51 percent unknown?"

Eischen doesn't own a pit bull - she owns an English bulldog.

"I personally don't have a stake in this," she said. "But when I see something (as an injustice), I don't want to sit back and say 'this is somebody else's problem.'"

Eischen said she has more questions than answers, but one is the most glaring: "Why don't they do away with this all together?"

"But, right now, we're not talking about a repeal - we're talking about the wording," she said. "They wanted to make sure it was as fair as they could make it - but there still are a lot of questions."

"I think a lot people feel like this is opening a lot of old wounds."

Butler, who was a city councilman at the time of the ordinance in 2008, said it was among the "most contentious series of meetings" during his time on council.

"One thing that I wanted to make clear to council when I introduced the ordinance, was that this wasn't an attempt to rehash the arguments that had already been made and vetted," he added. "If city council wants to do that at some point, that's within council's prerogative."

Member of city council's public safety board voted to move the measure to a third reading at council's next regular meeting, scheduled for Sept. 6 following summer break.

Proposed Pit Bull Ordinance Opens Old Wounds - Lakewood, OH Patch
 
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