Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Wellsville City Council to host public forum on dog ordinance

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 5/30/2014

WELLSVILLE ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­— Wellsville residents soon will get their chance to provide input on the city’s current dog ordinance.

After a presentation by Lisa Roberts, rural Wellsville, at the city council’s meeting Monday at city hall, 411 Main St., the council voted 4-0 to host a public meeting to discuss the current dog ordinance at 6 p.m. July 1 at city hall. Councilman Cory Cunningham was not present.

WELLSVILLE ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­— Wellsville residents soon will get their chance to provide input on the city’s current dog ordinance.

After a presentation by Lisa Roberts, rural Wellsville, at the city council’s meeting Monday at city hall, 411 Main St., the council voted 4-0 to host a public meeting to discuss the current dog ordinance at 6 p.m. July 1 at city hall. Councilman Cory Cunningham was not present.

Wellsville currently has an ordinance banning Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Terriers from within the city limits, Tammy Jones, Wellsville city clerk, said Friday morning.

Roberts, along with several supporters, presented information to the council during the meeting about breed specific legislation.

“I don’t really want to harp on [breed specific legislation] as much as I want to talk about educating the community ... the kids, the adults on dog behavior and knowing how to read a dog and knowing that it is not pit bulls that are necessarily mean,” Roberts said. “It is not that we should ban a specific breed, but we should have a dangerous dog owner ordinance, and what I mean by that is that the dogs don’t have control over their environment, owners do. Owners need to be educated and held accountable for the animals they have and how they are raised.”

Roberts, who is has been a registered veterinary technician for 17 years, does not live within the Wellsville city limits, but has two children who attend Wellsville schools, she said.

“It is not that anyone has put me up to this or anything like that — it is just something that the communities around the area kind of need to be on the same page, and that is my personal opinion,” Roberts said. “I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a dangerous dog ordinance, but to single out one specific breed ... that is giving a false sense of security to the community, to me. Communities are going to be like, ‘Oh, there are no pit bulls here, I’m fine. I can walk up to any dog that’s around here because it’s not banned.’ That’s not true.”

Bill Lytle, Wellsville mayor, said the city’s current ordinance was created about 10 years ago when there were problems with the specific breeds. He also cited that area communities such as Ottawa, Baldwin City, Gardner, Spring Hill, and Edgerton all have breed specific bans.

“We make ordinances because there are problems,” Lytle said. “When this ordinance was made in 2004-2005, there were problems. I understand that maybe sometimes we over-govern, but that’s why the ordinance was made because of problems that existed at that time.”

John Blair, Wellsville police chief, said during the meeting he thinks the ordinances are there for a reason and cited an incident which occurred about two months ago involving a dog which was attacked by a pit bull within the city limits of Wellsville.

The city’s current dog ordinance is enforced by the Wellsville Police Department, which does not have specific animal control training, city officials said during the meeting.

“It makes it a little tough for us to hold people accountable when we don’t have animal control here [in Wellsville],” Lytle said. “We do not have a specific animal control officer here. We do have a thing where you register your dogs here and it is $2 to register a neutered dog and $5 to register and unnuetered dog.”

Neutering a dog makes a big difference in their behavior, Melissa Reed, director of Prairie Paws Animal Shelter, 3173 K-68, Ottawa, said during the meeting.

“Just speaking from the shelter side of things, with our intake we do see a lot of pit bulls come in and we do have a struggle adopting them out because of the breed specific legislation,” Reed said. “I will say 70 percent of dog bites are from unneutered males. It is not from a specific breed. If you really want to address public safety, you have to focus on the spay/neuter of the animal because that does change the behavior.”

There are currently 55 registered dogs in Wellsville, Jones said during the meeting, and Lytle suspected that there were several owners within the city who have not yet registered their dogs.

The council decided to host a public meeting in early July because many members of the audience did not reside in Wellsville. Several council members said they wanted to hear opinions from Wellsville residents.

Mike McAfee, Wellsville city councilman, was one of the council members to offer an opinion on the city’s current ordinance during the discussion.

“If someone has a dog and they treat it bad, the dog is going to turn around and treat people the same way,” McAfee said. “It’s all in how a dog is raised. Some dogs have a bad temperament and have to be put down, but what pit bulls I’ve dealt with have never had a bad temperament.”

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