Monday, June 2, 2014

BREAKING: Public Safety Committee Convenes to Discuss Pit Bull Ban

Residents at Monday night's Public Safety Committee meeting/FTM
“We need to do something about this law,” Public Safety Committee Chair Tom Lampe said at Monday night’s Public Safety Committee meeting, referring to Fort Thomas’s city ordinance that bans dog-owners from owning pit bulls and pit bull-like dogs within city limits.

What that something is, however, the committee did not make clear.


While residents were not permitted to address the committee during the committee meeting, a number of residents brought the issue before the full council during Monday night’s City Council meeting, which began immediately after the committee adjourned.

City Administrator Don Martin began the meeting by reporting to the committee on the research he and city staff have done regarding pit bull and pit bull-like breeds (the current city ordinance leaves the language intentionally open-ended). This report was made available to the committee and council members prior to Monday night’s meeting.

Martin explained in his report that Fort Thomas currently has both a dangerous animal ordinance as well as a breed specific ordinance banning pit bull like dogs. Martin’s report also explained that there are 19 cities and counties in the area that restrict pit bulls in some way, but did not comment to the number of area cities with full bans on pit bulls.

“It’s a double-pronged approach,” he explained, “both reactive and proactive… Obviously there are pro’s and con’s.”

“I don’t know where we’re going to go with this thing,” 
Lampe said toward the end of the committee meeting.

Council member Eric Haas added, “I’d like to investigate legislation in other cities, with (breed specific) restrictions (that are not necessarily bans).”

Council member Jay Fossett, the third member of the Public Safety Committee and former Covington City Attorney, explained his experience with this issue in Kenton County: “What’s most telling is that we have people who deal with animals on a daily basis saying that BSL doesn’t make sense. That it’s really not necessary.” Fossett also made reference to area veterinary Dr.’s Mayhan, Crowley, and Pritchard — the latter who works at Fort Thomas Animal Hospital — all who oppose breed specific legislation.

During Fossett’s tenure in Covington, the city faced a similar issue regarding breed specific legislation. The city of Covington currently does not include breed specific language in its legislation.
The committee concluded by directing Martin and city staff to investigate other examples of dog ordinances that might serve as a model for revising the current breed specific ordinance. Fossett and council member Ken Bowman both suggested Martin look to the city of Cincinnati as an example of breed specific legislation that has been revised, in their opinion, for the better.

Discussion of BSL continued into Monday night’s regularly-scheduled City Council meeting, as residents who could not speak during the committee meeting stood up to make their voices heard. Every individual who addressed Council Monday night spoke in favor of revising or overturning the current legislation.

Tammy Nolan, Fort Thomas resident who founded the dog park in Highland Park, presented Council with a photograph of the Council who presided upon the park’s opening, posing with her now deceased pit bull at the park.

“When I built this dog park, this pit bull was basically your mascot for this park,” Nolan said. “We’re going to hurt the city financially with this law.”

Nolan made her comments in the wake of a recent addition to the dog park — a sign strictly prohibiting pit bulls from entering the dog park.

Cincinnati-resident and law enforcement officer Rachel Elder also spoke about how this law has affected their view of Fort Thomas. “We want to set up family roots here, but we cannot move here because of this law.”

Another voice from Cincinnati addressed council Monday night, as well. Cincinnati-based attorney Jim Tomaszewski, who was instrumental in overturning Cincinnati’s breed specific legislation two years ago, explained to council that his experience has shown “no correlation between between breed specific legislation and public safety."

Despite the number of residents who spoke out against the current legislation, no one in attendance spoke up in favor of the current ordinance.

While the committee and Council might not know exactly what the right answer is here, members Haas and Lampe both made clear that this is one of the most significant issues they’ve faced during their time on council.

“I’ve never had this much information on any one topic in my entire time on council,” Haas said, holding up two large binders full of research on the topic, provided to him from both residents and the city staff.

“We are listening to all of you; we’re listening to both sides,” Lampe assured residents in attendance.

One of the final residents to address Council, Allison Head, pleaded with council: "Don't let this drag out," she said. "Please, don't let this drag out."

But the timeline is still uncertain. The committee is currently waiting for city staff to investigate other examples of breed-restrictive legislation in the area. Another committee meeting, as well as a public hearing, could occur before any decision is made by the committee or by council.

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