Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 12, 2013

Dog fight

Citizen input vital to pit bull vote


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — When city officials proposed a breed specific ban on pit bulls in Bluefield last month, they opened the door to a contentious debate that has divided the community. The city proposed the new ordinance after animal control officer Randall Thompson was injured and hospitalized for several days after being bitten by a pit bull.

The proposed ordinance takes the city’s existing 2008 ordinance a step further by essentially banning the breed from the city limits. The first reading of the amended ordinance passed on a 3-0 vote Tuesday with Mayor Linda Whalen and board member Dr. Tom Blevins both absent. The ordinance is now scheduled for a second reading at the board’s April 23 meeting. That meeting begins at 6 p.m. at city hall.

Citizens who have thoughts, concerns or opinions on the amended pit bull ordinance — whether pro or con — should consider attending the April 23 meeting. The ordinance will become law if it is approved as a second reading.

The proposed ordinance would give existing owners of pit bulls 10 days after its enactment to have their animals registered at the Bluefield Police Department. After that 10-day period, no new pit bulls would be permitted in the city limits.

The city’s current ordinance requires pit bulls and wolf hybrids to be kept indoors or in a locked, enclosed pen or kennel with a secured top attached to all sides. The dogs must also be muzzled and on a secure leash when they are taken out of their home, and they must be registered with the Bluefield Police Department.

As of this week, approximately 30 pit bull owners had registered their animals with the police department, according to City Manager Jim Ferguson. So citizens are starting to take note of the existing ordinance — and are complying with it. That’s important.

Blaine Braithwaite, executive director of the South Bluefield Neighborhood Association, is urging the city board members to schedule a public hearing on the ordinance before voting on a second reading. The board members didn’t act upon Braithwaite’s request for a public hearing last week.

However, Braithwaite is correct. The pit bull ordinance is a highly emotional issue. And the citizens of Bluefield should be afforded another opportunity to comment on the proposed ordinance before action is taken. That is the only fair thing to do.

While it is a contentious issue, the proposed pit bull ban has accomplished one positive. It’s gotten more people involved in their local city government, and the debate is helping to fill more seats at the monthly city board meetings. And that’s a good thing.

 It is our hope that those citizens who have become involved in local government as a result of the pit bull debate will continue to attend monthly board meetings, and become actively involved in other issues of interest in their community.