Mount Gilead doesn’t have a problem with pit bulls.
But the legislation they’re considering is expected to make it a problem for owners of pit bulls who cause issues.
On April 4, Village Council repealed its long-standing village-wide pit bull ban, which has been on the books for nearly three decades.
However, the lifted ban still means owners need to remain cautious with their pets.
Council has begun work on what members call new, stronger legislation that will more narrowly define what constitutes as a viscous animal.
“They’re hoping to define dangerous animals more clearly,” Mount Gilead Village Solicitor Matt Griffith stated.
The language of the current village viscous animal legislation states that, “any animal with a known propensity, tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked, to cause injury or to otherwise endanger the safety of human beings or domestic animals,” is defined as dangerous.
The ambiguity of the language used in the current statute is what council is expected to eliminate with the new ordinance.
Areas around the region have have looked at the issue in different ways.
In Bellville, pit bulls are allowed as long as they are restrained.
“At this time we have to plans to change anything,” Bellville Mayor Darrell Banks said. “That of course could change at any moment.”
And according to Galion Communications Director Matt Echelberry, the city has some regulations for “dangerous and vicious dogs,” but does not specifically list pit bulls.
Mount Gilead officials hope the repeal of the pit bull ban will allow law enforcement and village government to better impose punishment against aggressive animals, instead of targeting one type of dog.
Officials say the former breed specific legislation was often difficult for both the Mount Gilead Police Department and the village to enforce because, as was written, it required a dog to be medically deemed a pit bull.
In order to prove an animal was indeed a pit, extensive veterinary testing was required, since a number of dog breeds are commonly referred to as pit bulls.
“You can’t say a dog is a pit bull just because it looks like a pit bull,” Mount Gilead Council member Donna Carver said. “The way the old ordinance was written, it cost the village money to pay for testing to see if a dog was a pit bull.”
That wording is supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association, which states “visual determination of dog breed is known to be unreliable.” And that “witnesses (in dog bite incidents) may be predisposed to assume that a dog that bites is a pit bull.”
Included in the commonplace pit bull label are: American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers or any mix of those breeds.
Mount Gilead joins many municipalities across the nation that have repealed breed specific bans, most of which were targeted against pit bulls.
The often-maligned group of dog breeds were once the most widely-banned canine, but have slowly begun to be less rallied against.
A study published in 2015 by the American Veterinary Medical Association, found that in controlled studies pit bulls were not a disproportionally dangerous breed.
In fact, the same study found that, “more aggressive toward people based on behavioral assessments and owner surveys includes tend to belong to small- to medium-sized breeds such as the collies, toy breeds and spaniels.”
Nationwide organizations have been championing for breed specific legislation to be repealed for several years.
The AVMA, the nationwide Humane Society and the American Bar Association, have supported a growing trend to see breed specific ban repeals, stating that communities would be better served targeting problem animals instead of individual breeds.
Despite the pro-pit bull movement gaining steam, a few opposing opinions have weighed in on the matter.
A national organization dedicated to educating readers about dangerous dogs, specifically pit bulls, has contacted members of Mount Gilead Village Council with anti-pit bull literature since the issue of repealing the pit bull ban surfaced in 2014.
Members of the group have also left repeated comments on our website and Facebook page condemning council’s decision to allow the dog breed inside village limits.
From a local standpoint, many Morrow County insurance companies have not softened their stance on the vilified dog breed.
“Mount Gilead may have repealed their ban on pit bulls but none of the insurance companies we represent have changed their underwriting rules regarding them,” Kilgour Insurance Store agent Becky Kilgour said. “Insurance statistics shows that dog bite claims account for about one-third of all homeowner’s claims and now average $32,000 per claim. Those figures might help to explain why insurance companies do not want to insure certain breeds.”
Subsequently, land owners are no more enthused to have the breeds in their rental properties.
“My husband and I, as landlords, do not allow pits, Dobermans, rotts or chows because the land owner is liable (not renters) and most insurance companies do no cover them,” wrote Marengo-based landlord Beth Lyon via Facebook.
Even though the same study from the AMVA concludes that a number of factors play a larger role in determining the likelihood of dog attacks, such as an individual canine’s training method, sex, neutering, the target and its environment, the anti-pit bull sentiment will continue to exist in some decision makers.
And despite Mount Gilead’s and other municipalities efforts to alleviate the negative connotation resigned to pit bulls, the debate between pro and anti-pit bull people does not look like it will end anytime soon.
Reach Jones on Twitter @zJones_1239