City won’t change dog law

COLUMBIANA — The city will not be changing its vicious dog law.

Council voted 5-1 Tuesday against giving a first reading to legislation amending the existing law that automatically declares a pit bull dog to be a vicious animal.

Councilman Dick McBane was the only one in favor of giving the legislation a first reading, although he said he would be open to a law prohibiting pit bulls or other dangerous breed dogs in the city entirely.

Animal advocate Jason Cooke, who suggested a few weeks ago that the city consider changing its law to adopt a more breed neutral stance, gave one last final push for the change that evening, but was met with opposition from the majority of council and Mayor Bryan Blakeman.

Blakeman, who would have only voted in the event of a tie among council, said he felt the current law was sufficient and didn’t believe it was discriminatory against the pit bull breed.

Under the law, anyone owning a pit bull is required to have liability insurance. Any other dog found to be dangerous or vicious based on causing injury or death to a person or other dog unprovoked would require insurance as well.

Reading from statistics from DogsBite.org, Blakeman said that pit bull dogs killed 20 Americans in 2015 and 25 people so far this year compared to 10 deaths by all dog breeds combined during both years.

“If it is mathematically, statistically proven they are more likely to cause a problem than other breeds, I don’t know why someone wouldn’t have insurance on them,” Blakeman said. “I would be completely against changing this. I don’t think it is stopping anyone from having a pet they so choose.”

He added that although there are a few pit bulls in town, there haven’t been any incidents and added that he felt changing the law would be bending “to the will of a couple of people that don’t live in town.”

To date, the only two people who have advocated for the change are Cooke and former county deputy dog warden Brenda Austin, both of whom live outside the city.

Both Cooke and Austin have also recently helped the city with the removal of more than 24 cats from a condemned home on South Middle Street.

“Even though I am not a member of Columbiana village, I do care about the welfare of Columbiana village,” Cooke said. “I worked very hard on the removal of the cats. Just because a person is not a member of the community does not mean that they don’t have valuable input.”

He then said that keeping the current law would make it difficult for city residents to own pit bulls who may not be able to afford the required insurance.

But Blakeman countered that if the person couldn’t afford the insurance they likely wouldn’t be able to properly care for the dog in the first place.

Councilman Rick Noel asked Cooke if he disagreed with the statistics recited by Blakeman, and reiterated that pit bulls only account for 6 percent of the United States dog population, but cause 95 percent of severe attacks.

Cooke replied that he believed the statistics may not be entirely accurate.

“I respectfully request that you not judge all dogs based on statistics,” he said. “Discrimination and stereotypes is not something I want to instill in children.”

Blakeman then argued that the state of Ohio recognizes dogs are property and property cannot be discriminated against.

Cooke agreed, but said dogs are a “unique” type of property given special protection by laws.

Municipal Attorney Daniel Blasdell said that the statistics may have to do with the fact that pit bulls are generally used in an “unusual way” by a lot of people, as they have been known to be trained to be fighting dogs and protective.

McBane’s suggestion to discuss the possibility of a prohibition on all dangerous dogs was not given consideration.

Cooke said after the meeting that he was “disheartened” with the decision.

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