City considers action against pit bull breeds
By Rene Cizio, The News-Herald
PUBLISHED: August 10, 2008
ALLEN PARK — The city's legal affairs committee met Tuesday to consider banning pit bulls in the community.
The discussion stemmed from a deadly attack last month on a city official's two pets in her yard. One of the small dogs was killed and the other was seriously wounded.
Despite a request from Mayor Gary Burtka that the committee members move quickly, they said they won't be making a recommendation Tuesday at the next City Council meeting.
Legal affairs committee meetings usually aren't highly attended, but this one brought concerned parties from as far as Ann Arbor to offer input.
The committee is made up of City Attorney Anthony Guerriero and Councilmen Frank Tucci, Kevin Rourke and James Flynn.
A portion of the meeting was set to discuss adopting an ordinance to ban or restrict pit bull ownership in the city.
The recommendation came last month from Councilwoman Beverly Kelley, whose two Shih Tzus were attacked July 12 by two pit bulls that broke into her yard. One of Kelley's dogs was killed and the other was severely wounded.
Of the more than 25 people who attended Tuesday's meeting, the majority spoke in favor of pit bulls.
Several people who said they owned pit bulls said they are good dogs.
"These were just two aggressive dogs out of millions," Sandra Klinkman of Allen Park said.
Deborah Dees, another resident, said the dog owners should be held responsible, not the dogs.
"To take this incident and promote fear over this breed of dog, I think, is really unjust and unfair," she said. "My hope is that you don't pass a ban on that dog."
Kelley said the pit bulls that attacked her small dogs were mixed breed. One was part Rottweiler and the other was part Labrador retriever.
Kelley said all four dogs were barking at each other, and the pit bulls jumped on the fence until it gave way.
The pit bulls were not licensed or collared. They were found a few blocks from Kelley's house shortly after the attack.
According to police, the owner of the dogs, Susan Jaeger of Lincoln Park, came forward and was cited for no license, a $100 fine each; dogs at large, $100 each;and harboring vicious animals, up to $500 and 93 days in jail for each.
The dogs are being held for $30 per day each at the city's animal shelter.
Customarily, the owners of animals that attack sign custody of the animals to the city and they are euthanized.
"The state of Michigan currently has a law that if an animal kills another animal or a child, they are to be put down," Kelley said. "The owner of these dogs is fighting this ... wants them to live to do it again, I'm sure."
Jaeger did not respond to The News-Herald Newspapers' requests for comment.
A court date to decide the matter has been scheduled for Aug. 20 in 24th District Court.
"There's going to be a show-cause hearing to make a determination on whether or not these two animals, these two pit bull mixes, should be euthanized," Guerriero said.
There are several options for a new ordinance the legal affairs committee could consider.
Some restrictions for "dangerous" dogs could include adult ownership, dog tattooing, registration and licensing with the city, and to keep the dogs muzzled at all times they are outdoors.
Some cities require owners to buy extra liability insurance, keep their dogs behind 6-foot-high fences or pay high license fees for animals of certain breeds.
Tucci, the council chairman, read a majority of Melvindale's ban aloud at Tuesday's meeting. That neighboring community's ordinance not only describes the dogs by several names, typical of a pit bull, but also a variety of features.
Many in the audience shook their heads in disagreement with descriptions of the dog's ferocious bite and vicious nature.
"I don't believe in breed-specific bans, and I never thought that this sort of ban would ever be considered in the city of Allen Park," resident Jean Kaplar said.
Resident Carrie Kamalay said she understands people who fear pit bulls, but isn't sure the breed should be singled out.
"If any of these people have ever had one of their dogs bound over a chain-link fence and come at them baring their teeth, they would understand the concerns of the citizens who are worried about the pit bulls who aren't handled properly by their owners," she said.
Kamalay said she was attacked on her street while walking her dog past a pit bull after it climbed a fence in March 2007.
She said that because of her winter clothing, she didn't have any severe injuries.
"The dog was taken into the house and then forced its way through the screen door and chased me home after they pulled it off of me," she said. "About two months later, it did the same thing to a gentleman walking a Labrador retriever."
Still, though, Kamalay said she isn't sure about banning the dogs altogether, but would be in favor of having them muzzled while they are outside.
Kelley isn't sure what exactly should be done about the dogs, but said it needs to be addressed.
"I think something should be done before this happens to someone else," she told the committee.
Addressing the audience and holding up pictures of her dead and mangled dogs, Cujo and Boss, she said:
"Take a look at that. Would you like to stand and watch that? No, I don't think you would, would you?
"I never saw such viciousness in my entire life. I think that any of these women or men that could have stood there and watched this take place without being able to move one foot for fear of their own life, I think they would look very differently on this."
Kelley said placing restrictions on the dogs might not be enough to prevent this type of attack from happening again.
"How do you know who the owner was?" she said. "We didn't know who the owner was.
They were not tagged, not licensed, and there are a lot of dogs in this community that are not licensed. How do we know where they are, what they are? We don't, because people
don't register their dogs."
Owners of pit bulls, however, were not swayed by Kelley's argument.
When Flynn said, "I always question why don't we hear the warm, fuzzy pit bull stories," the pit bull owners spoke up and offered several examples of famous pit bulls such as Petey from "The Little Rascals."
"I was going to bring my dog to the meeting today," one audience member said.
Mark Ferguson of Wyandotte said that though it is a "heart-wrenching situation," he, a pit bull owner, is opposed to banning them anywhere.
"To have somebody's dog be killed by another is really, really bad," he said. "There are viable alternatives to look at besides just the breeds."
Rourke assured the crowd that no decision would be made in haste.
"This is just the first phase of gathering data to make the right decision," he said.
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Bless the Bullys