Appeals board will handle disputes over vicious dogs in Whitehall
* Mayor John Wolfe suggests its members be only Whitehall residents, but Councilwoman Jackie Thompson says she fears impartiality.
By KEVIN CORVO
Published: Thursday, August 14, 2008 11:03 AM EDT
Whitehall is taking the next step in its effort to regulate vicious dogs in the city.
Whitehall City Council members are expected to pass an emergency ordinance at their next meeting, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 19, establishing a "dangerous and vicious dog appeals board" in the city code.
A companion ordinance, providing members with a $25 stipend for each meeting attended, will be introduced but receive its normal three readings.
The bulwarks of the appeals board were discussed at the meeting of council committees held Tuesday, Aug. 12, where lingering animosity over the original legislation concerning vicious dogs remained at the table.
The creation of the appeals board is an administrative process and lies in the hands of Mayor John Wolfe, who outlined his proposal at this week's three-hour committee meeting.
"If you don't like something, discuss it and change it," Wolfe said.
Wolfe proposed a five-member appeals board. Two of the original members would serve three-year terms, two would serve two-year terms and one would serve a single-year term. Each subsequent appointment would be for three years.
All five members must reside in Whitehall.
"I limited it to Whitehall based on the past concern of outsiders (participating in meetings)," Wolfe said.
Councilwoman Jackie Thompson, whose legislation to ban pit bulls was defeated, often charged that the "pit bull lobby," composed of animal activists from throughout Central Ohio, successfully swayed the majority of Whitehall council members to nix her ban.
However, Thompson said she now fears an all-Whitehall appeals board would not be impartial, particularly if a specific group, Help Fido, were involved.
Councilman Bob Bailey, who forwarded the legislation council accepted concerning vicious dogs, said the organization was an "instrument to help the city."
Thompson countered the group functioned as a lobby, pointing out the antibreed-specific literature the group had at its booth Aug. 5 during National Night Out.
"I saw it, too ... everyone needs to stop teaming up on Jackie," said Councilwoman Leslie LaCorte, who was the lone supporter of Thompson's pit bull ban effort.
Bailey and LaCorte began another exchange, at which time Council President Brent Howard repeatedly ordered, "We're done."
City Attorney Mike Shannon, addressing Thompson's concerns about third-party participation in appeals board matters, said only those with "standing" are permitted to testify.
"It isn't like a council meeting where anyone can speak about anything ... only parties with standing, such as the owner of the dog, will speak the (appeals board) meetings," Shannon said.
According to the mayor's proposal, the board would be required to have one mandatory, organizational meeting on the first Wednesday in January to select officers and a secretary. Future meetings would be held as needed.
"The appeals board is to serve as an impartial tribunal to determine if a dog is vicious (or in fact a pit bull)," Shannon said. Decisions can be appealed to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
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Bless the Bullys