MANSFIELD — “We’re responding to the people,” Mansfield City Councilman-at-large Don Bryant said Tuesday about proposed amendments to the city’s dog ordinance.
Many people, he said, are not in favor of the city’s breed-specific legislation that prohibits the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, and any mixed breed of dog containing the aforementioned breeds in city limits because of their classification as “vicious” dogs.
“The majority of people want this thing off of our books, this BSL (breed-specific legislation) that we have, and we’re responding to the people,” Bryant said.
Council’s response is amending the city’s legislation to make it breed-neutral.
“The existing legislation includes in the definition of a vicious dog a pit bull or pit bull type,” Law Director John Spon said. “At the request of city council, I have removed the subsection which includes pit bull or put bill types within a vicious dog definition.”
Spon doesn’t agree with this direction.
“I get the consensus and feeling that the majority of council members wants to go to non-breed specific,” he said. “Just for purposes of the record, I don’t support that approach, but I respect the Democratic process and I recognize that there are others that can disagree with me.”
Mansfield resident Deborah Mount isn’t pleased with the breed-neutral legislation either.
“This bill drops the pit bull ban and does nothing to stiffen penalties for people who allow their dogs to run loose and attack other people or their pets,” she said.
However, Mansfield resident David Falquette, who’s running for the first ward city council seat in the upcoming election, voiced his support and hopes to see a “more encompassing” piece of legislation, referencing Avon Lake‘s dog ordinance.
“I know it’s a different-sized city, but it seemed to have a lot more of the step-by-step penalties,” he said. “So, to me, this is step one, and hopefully in the near future we can see progression to make it more encompassing.”
First Ward Councilman Mike Hill said he would like to see more severe penalties imposed upon owners of dogs that cause injury or death.
“And I mean severely — a $300, $500 fine,” he said. “Whatever the law director thinks would be appropriate. At least to let the public know that if they have a dog that’s going to cause a problem, and they can’t control it and the dog does damage, even takes a life, then I think those people should be penalized to the fullest extent.”
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Garnetta Pender echoed his thoughts, saying dog owners need to be held responsible.
“We have to hold people responsible for their dogs,” she said.
Spon said the penalty, according to state statute, is a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
“If someone is viciously attacked and seriously injured, the court doesn’t even have the power to enforce an order of restitution, because if it’s a fourth-degree misdemeanor, the court is powerless to order any jail time,” he said. “So if the court issues an order to reimburse somebody for $75,000 of medical bills, and the individual fails or refuses to pay, they run no risk at all. They can’t be put in jail.”
Spon said the city can impose a more severe penalty, up to a first-degree misdemeanor.
Bryant said he’s planning to meet with the law director before the next council meeting on Oct. 17 to revise the dog ordinance again to specifically address penalties.
Council will vote on the ordinance Nov. 21.