Village officials decide pit bulls can stay
by SHAUN BYRON
Observer Staff Writer
While village officials may have voted down a proposed ban on pit bulls, more investigation will continue to determine if they are truly man's or woman's best friend.
The board voted 4-2 against the possible ordinance, which was brought before the public at a regular meeting, Monday, Feb. 27.
If it were approved, the ordinance would have outlawed anyone owning a pit bull, including "any American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier or any dog displaying a majority of physical traits of any one or more of these breeds."
The ordinance would have also carried some exceptions for individuals living within the village limits and owning those types of dogs described in the ordinance prior to its approval.
The only officials to cast a vote of approval were trustees Matthew Edwards and Greg Jacobson.
After the proposal was voted down, Trustee Ron Rossell said he would like to see officials study ordinances that have language banning specific breeds and ordinances that carry language for vicious dogs, but don't name particular breeds.
Rossell said the issue shouldn't disappear because so many people feel passionately about protecting residents against a possible dog attack.
Some of the issues raised with having such an ordinance were its enforcement and determining what percentage of a dog's bloodline would have officials identifying it as a pit bull.
Village attorney Mark Clark suggested since Romeo has nobody to enforce the ordinance, if it is passed, then officials should find out the cost for Macomb County Animal Shelter & Control to take a more active role in its enforcement.
And because the village offices are so small, he added, the ordinance will push new public services onto staff if it were approved.
Romeo Police Chief James Vanderlinden said in the past year, they have recorded only three dog bites.
He said the only known dog bite by a pit bull occurred when a woman attempted to get between a dog and a cat.
But following the publicity of officials considering the action, the general public has made their opinions vocal.
In what many officials say was a surprising emotional response, trustees and the village offices were flooded with e-mails and calls from individuals and organizations speaking against the ban.
"Dogs are not problematic when they are kept in their yards," Doberman Pinscher Club of Detroit legislative liaison Gary Felty told the board.
Felty said ordinances that hold irresponsible dog owners at fault, rather than targeting particular breeds, are far more desirable for communities.
"It's the owner, not the breed, that makes a dog dangerous," he said. "If we have responsible owners that maintain the responsibility of their animals then we don't have a problem."
Other meeting attendees, many of whom were from surrounding communities, also spoke, attesting to how affectionate their particular dog is.
Their arguments were countered by Romeo resident Darryl Hissong, who presented the board with photographs of a child's injuries after suffering an attack by a pit bull.
"We are not talking about theoretical incidents, we are talking about the facts," he said. "You are right, the owners are to blame, but they are only partly to blame."
But Sarah Clinton of Romeo said her nine-month-old pit bull Ernie is a beloved member of the family.
"I just think it would be a tragedy for anyone to have their dog taken away from them after they have taken all the steps to be a responsible dog owner," she said.
Despite other officials saying they would be more open to a vicious dog ordinance, supporters of the pit bull ban remain steadfast in their convictions.
Edwards said the village should regulate the animal, adding they have a strong pain threshold and are merciless when they attack.
"I don't think a pit bull is going to quit until you're dead or incapacitated," he said.
My aunt lives there and this is what she sent me via email:
The Village of Romeo meeting for the Pit Bull Ordinance was tonight. I arrived after the meeting started because of Andy's dog obedience class. I would say that there were about 25 people there that were very interested in the outcome of the meeting. Remember, Romeo is about one mile square so 25 people on one issue is a lot and most of the people were against the ordinance. I had my hand up for about five minutes (to the severe aching point!) but audience speakers spoke before I got there, I guess, because they wouldn't call on me. The ordinance was voted down 4-2, I'm glad to say, and the audience applauded. I hope this issue doesn't come up again. I still think it's a knee-jerk reaction with what is going on in the rest of the country. We have had three dog-bites in the last five years with only one of the bites being from a pit bull and the police chief said that the woman who was bitten had gotten between the dog and a cat, a poor judgement situation. The trustee who presented the ordinance said he wanted to be "proactive" in response to a statement from another trustee that we didn't have a problem in Romeo. I go back to the old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"