Scranton considering pit bull law
BY STACY BROWN
A ban on pit bulls in Scranton is not likely, but legislation to make it tougher to own one could be forthcoming.
Solicitor Amil Minora is looking into whether City Council has the power to enact legislation banning or at least restricting the much-maligned canines. Mr. Minora’s opinion is expected Thursday.
“I am looking forward to Mr. Minora’s opinion on this,” Councilman Bob McTiernan said Monday. “I suppose we can write legislation but the question will be whether our legislation can survive a challenge.”
Council made the decision to seek such an ordinance after several residents began complaining about pit bulls attacking other dogs.
The state has a law prohibiting breed-specific legislation.
Municipal officials can, however, impose rules that could make it tough for the average pet owner. Some municipalities, such as Pittsburgh and Monroeville, already require owners of pit bull terriers and Rottweilers to have the dogs housed behind 8-foot fences, maintain costly licenses to keep the animals and proof of liability insurance. Expenses for these could easily mount, making it unaffordable for many dog owners.
While Scranton police studied the issue last year when reports of pit bulls attacking other dogs appeared to climb, nothing was done, Police Chief David Elliott said.
“We were going after what we felt were dangerous dogs, and some people have trained their dogs to be vicious,” said the chief, who was not in his office and didn’t have immediate access to incident reports involving pit bulls.
It has been more than five years since a pit bull was reported to have mauled a Scranton resident. A vicious attack in December 2000 left a 17-month old girl with a severed nerve in her face and a gash that required 450 stitches.
In 2002, a pit bull was beaten to death by an ex-city cop who apparently came to the rescue of a neighbor and two other dogs.
Just as signs are placed on streets alerting traffic to children or handicapped individuals, Mr. McTiernan says another avenue to possibly explore is placing signs in neighborhoods where pit bulls are kept to warn of the presence of dangerous or vicious animals. It is important for council to act before someone is seriously injured, council President Judy Gatelli said.
“I have already gotten a lot of complaints from dog owners who said we cannot ban pit bulls,” Mrs. Gatelli said Monday.
If the city cannot ban pit bulls, Mr. Minora should explore legislation on tougher dog owner responsibilities, Councilman Bill Courtright said.
“I can remember years back, when people wanted Dobermans banned, but perhaps it’s the dog owner and not the dog that we should concentrate on,” Mr. Courtright said.
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©The Times-Tribune 2006