Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ottawa leaders to revisit disputed pit bull ban

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 1/27/2014

Mike Skidmore remembers being bitten on the back of his leg by a dog when he was a boy, he said.

“Because of the tenacity in which they attack, I wonder, if I was bitten by a pit bull, if I might not be walking today,” Skidmore, Ottawa city commissioner, said during the commission’s study session Monday.

Mike Skidmore remembers being bitten on the back of his leg by a dog when he was a boy, he said.

“Because of the tenacity in which they attack, I wonder, if I was bitten by a pit bull, if I might not be walking today,” Skidmore, Ottawa city commissioner, said during the commission’s study session Monday.

The city commission has been weighing the issue of whether to lift a 1987 ordinance that bans pit bulls in the city.

Skidmore wondered how he would feel if the city lifted a ban on pit bulls and a little girl was bitten by one of the dogs a few months later, he said.

Jason Berve, Ottawa, has been trying for months to get the city commission to lift the breed-specific legislation. The commission chambers were filled with his supporters Jan. 8 for a forum scheduled by the commission to hear residents’ opinions about the breed-specific legislation, both those for and against the ordinance.

Berve said the current pit bull ordinance — banning pit bull breeds American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and Bull Terrier, as well as mixes of those breeds — does nothing to protect residents from the real issue: negligent owners.

City commissioners agreed Monday to offer their reactions to the Jan. 8 public forum at their next evening meeting, 7 p.m. Feb. 5 at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa.

While Skidmore and the other commissioners stopped short of saying if they would consider lifting the ban, some of their comments Monday indicated they likely would leave the pit bull ordinance in place. In addition to the breed-specific ordinance, the city also has a vicious dog ordinance. Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief, pointed out — both Monday and at the public forum — that his department has rigorously enforced the vicious dog ordinance.

Shawn Dickinson, city commissioner, said he was not in favor of putting a person’s right to own a pit bull above public safety.

Sara Caylor, Ottawa mayor, also questioned if lifting the pit bull ban would make the community safer.

Linda Reed said it was the commission’s job to thoroughly explore the issue, and said she thought the commission had done that. Most of the feedback Reed received since the public forum was urging the commission not to make a change and leave the pit pull ordinance intact, she said.

Commissioners agreed to give the pit bull ordinance some more thought and weigh in on the issue at their Feb. 5 meeting. While commissioners agreed to offer their reactions to the forum, they did not commit to taking action on the matter Feb. 5.

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