Monday, December 22, 2008

Kennel club voices opposition to pit bull rules

The Oshkosh Kennel Club last week came out in opposition to proposed city rules regulating pit bull terriers and related breeds.

Steve Eichman, president of the Oshkosh Kennel Club said he is not comfortable with the city's idea of using the club's Good Citizen class as a measure of whether pit bulls and other breeds could be exempt from the requirement for a special $100 license. And club members are unhappy that city officials chose the class, which only lasts for 15 or 20 minutes, as a test for the exemption without first consulting with the club.

Eichman said the level of a dog's aggression cannot be determined in the 15 to 20 minute Good Citizen class, which consists of approximately 15 short tests for the dog.

"We have someone walk around with a walker and we see how the dog handles loud noises. Will it heel and sit? Does it do simple commands?" Eichman said. "Completion doesn't necessarily mean that you don't have a vicious dog."

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Health Department Director Paul Spiegel said the proposed licensing changes would help address a growing number of attacks by pit bulls in the area and protect the safety of Oshkosh citizens. The Good Citizen class is proposed to serve as an exemption to having to obtain special license, which would cost $100 and would also require owners to spay or neuter their dogs and meet other special standards, such as muzzling the dog while out in public and keeping it in a minimum 5-by-10 fenced cage, with a secure top, when left alone in a yard.

The proposed changes to the city's Chapter 6 animal ordinance have been in the works for over a year, but Eichman said the Oshkosh Kennel Club was never involved in talks with the city. Members only learned of the proposed legislation when the city earlier this month asked the kennel club, dog groomers, veterinarians and animal shelter workers for feedback, he said.

"We were not involved in the initial conversation and we would have liked to be involved since the beginning," Eichman said. "Now we are looking at ways to defeat the changes. Now we are on the defensive."

An exemption to the special license was not initially proposed, but representatives from the Oshkosh Humane Society suggested it during talks about the ordinance changes.

The Oshkosh Area Humane Society does not support breed-specific legislation and recommended the change as a way to allow responsible owners of the breed to be exempt from the special license.

"When asked by the city for an opinion on BSL (breed-specific legislation), the OAHS point-blank said, 'don't do it; it doesn't work,'" according to a statement released Friday by the humane society.

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