Wednesday, December 24, 2008

ALLEN PARK: City tightens pit bull laws (MI)

ALLEN PARK — Pit bulls have been banned from the city for now — at least the bad ones.

After months of heated debate City Council members and pit bull advocates have worked out a compromise.

“It’s still a ban, but it’s better then it was,” said Bob Darden, a member of the Michigan Association for Pure Bred Dogs.

Darden has been a fixture at City Hall since July, when word of the ban first started.

The nonstop advocating, from Darden and other groups and residents has resulted in an “open line of communication” that brought the initial outright ban to something more palatable.

The ban has many of its original aspects, but adds a few caveats.

Pit bulls licensed with the city by Feb. 1, 2009, are allowed with restrictions.

No new pit bulls are allowed.

A five-year sunset clause has been added, however, as well as a clause to re-evaluate the ban in two years.

“We’re going to look at it again to see is it working, is it not working, does it need to be changed, tweaked, or what,” Councilman Kyle Tertzag said.

The council’s legal affairs committee was charged with drafting the ordinance.

On the committee are Councilmen Kevin Rourke, Frank Tucci and James Flynn and City Attorney Anthony Guerriero.

Rourke was the only dissenting vote for the ban. He said he felt the vicious dog ordinance was enough.

“I just don’t think a breed specific ban is necessary,” he said..

This ordinance, the same as the original, gives great detail on features typical of pit bulls, such as muscular builds, a broad head, climbing and hanging ability and tenacity.

For those who currently have a licensed pit bull, new restrictions would apply with exceptions:

When the dog is not in an enclosed structure, it must be under the control of a person over age 18.

It must be leashed and muzzled.

All properties where the dog is kept must be insured with public liability insurance of no less than $100,000.

Dog pens must have a top and a bottom or be secured at least one foot in the ground.

Any puppies born in the city should be removed by the time they are 6 months old.

Licensed dogs must have a microchip or tattoo to identify their owners.

Any grandfathered dog that is deemed to be vicious will lose its exemption.

The exceptions are for dogs that pass the Canine Good Citizenship test.

The Canine Good Citizen Program is a two-part program of 10 steps that stresses responsible pet ownership for owner and basic good manners for dogs.

Dogs that pass the test will receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club.

Animal shelter employees are being trained to administer the test.

City officials are not yet sure as to the cost of the test, but intend for it to be low.

Dogs that pass the good conduct test are exempt for all rules except microchips and leashes.

Owners have until April 15 to have their dogs tested.

In a letter, Michael Davis of the Great Lakes American Pit Bull Terrier Association thanked the council for promoting responsible ownership and offered sup-port for the ordinance.

“We look forward to more positive things in the future with your community,” he said.

Tertzag said contrary to popular belief, the ordinance did not stem from an attack on Councilwoman Beverly Kelley’s dogs, but was in response to several attacks in the city.

Kelley’s two Shih Tzus were attacked in July by two pit bulls that broke into her fenced back yard, killing one of the small dogs and severely injuring the other.

“I thought there had to be a way to come up with something to work with the greater good but not punish responsible owners,” Tertzag said.

“I hope this will give responsible owners … the in-centive to be just that, responsible owners that care enough about their animals and this community to maintain and train their dogs properly.”

After a drawn-out court battle between the owner of the animals that attacked Kelley’s dogs and the city, the dogs were euthanized.

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