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Published: 4/9/2008

Canine plan dogs Sylvania

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Following a two-hour committee session earlier this week, Sylvania Council decided to conduct another public meeting to discuss the city's proposed legislation that would place restrictions on vicious dogs.

The next session is set for 6 p.m. April 21 in council chambers. The proposed legislation could be presented for a decision by council members during their May 5 meeting.

Council's safety committee recently recommended that a law be enacted that would make it illegal to own more than one pit bull or other vicious dog.

Two versions of a vicious-dog ordinance have been written.

Both proposed ordinances place limitations on ownership and would require that pit bulls be muzzled and kept on a leash when outside the owner's home.

One of the proposed ordinances would require that dogs commonly known as pit bulls or pit bull mixed-breed dogs be spayed and neutered when they are six months or older and would make it illegal for a convicted felon to own such a dog.

Featured during the Monday night safety committee meeting were speakers from Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan, including more than one opposed to breed-specific legislation.

Breed-specific legislation doesn't work because it is too broad and it punishes responsible pet owners, said Dr. Deb Johnson with the Toledo Area Humane Society.

There is no evidence, she said, that such legislation makes a community safer and no evidence that it reduces the number of dog-bite incidents.

Dr. Robert Esplin, a veterinarian in Sylvania, said emotion should be replaced with reason, and science should replace fiction in this discussion.

He recommended new laws or better enforcement of current law, and said that bad press should be replaced with good press about the good things those dogs do.

Drue Stout of Adrian, Mich., who works with dogs at a facility in Michigan, said problems can occur because of the way dogs are treated. "It's not the dog, it is the way the dog is raised," he said.

After telling a story about a big-hearted dog rescued from a Dumpster he received a round of enthusiastic applause from the crowd of about 40 people in Sylvania council chambers.

Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon said "for the record, you called me. I didn't sponsor this," explaining his involvement in the proposed legislation by city officials.

Mr. Skeldon then took city officials on a walk in his world over this past weekend, when the dog warden's office responded to seven calls about pit bulls in the city of Toledo, including one where a pit bull, that had chased someone earlier, was cornered in a yard. Mr. Skeldon said he stepped into the yard and shot the dog with a tranquilizer.

He said when he was asked by Sylvania officials about possible controls, he suggested legislation that would allow pet owners to have only one pit bull, that pit bulls would have to be muzzled when off the owners' properties, that the dogs should be neutered if over 6 months old, and that felons should not have possession or control of pit bulls.

He said not every person with a pit bull is into gangs and drugs, but he said drug money is fueling the growth in the number of pit bulls.

Mr. Skeldon said Toledo's pit bull legislation has been upheld in courts, and that the law has merit. "Don't let this get tried over and over again. I can enforce laws. I have never made a law in my life. If you folks think it is time, do it. If not, I respect it."

Councilman Dog Haynam said he introduced the proposed, less-restrictive ordinance because his neighbor was having a problem with dogs that were described as pit bulls.

Sylvania resident Harold Roe, who was toting a book about the U.S. Constitution, said he has a bull terrier, and that any law that restricts his use of his property, such as his dog, "takes away from my liberty and my pursuit of happiness."

Michelle Perkins of Sylvania said she has the right to own dogs. "They are our families," she said, adding the city should go after people who fail to license their dogs or who let their dogs run wild.



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