Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 15, 2013

Proposed pit bull ban — Enforce existing ordinance first


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Proposed pit bull ban

Enforce existing ordinance first

A proposed pit bull ban in the city of Bluefield has renewed debate over breed-specific ordinances.

Mayor Linda Whalen says the ban is needed because too many owners are not complying with the city’s current ordinance. Additionally, animal control officer Randall Thompson was recently injured and hospitalized for several days after being bitten by a pit bull.

We believe the pit bull problem in Bluefield is indicative of a much larger issue in the city and throughout the region — irresponsible pet owners. Dogs — be they pit bulls or other breeds — require a long-term commitment from owners. They are not disposable creatures to be ignored or tossed aside after they have outgrown the cute, puppy stage.

Additionally, responsible pet owners spay or neuter their dogs, keep them well fed, have regular veterinary checkups and provide a secure, safe environment for the dog in a house or fenced-in yard.

City Attorney Brian Cochran said the pit bull problem is a public safety issue. “It’s something that we as a municipal government can do to help protect our kids and other citizens throughout the city, and that’s the whole point of it. There are probably some responsible owners of pit bulls out there, but there are a lot who aren’t very responsible. We have pretty stringent laws in the books, but they don’t seem to be working very well.”

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.

While a breed ban may seem like a solution to the problem with noncompliance, we would, in the meantime, suggest an enforcement crackdown on the current ordinance. Get the specifics of the ordinance out to pit bull owners — we’re happy to help — then plan a targeted enforcement period. We also encourage the city to work with Mercer County Animal Shelter officials and pit bull rescue groups to ensure any dogs seized have a chance at a better life.

We believe responsible pet owners will comply with the ordinance to not only help ensure the safety of city residents, but to also ensure the safety of their pets. Those who live or work in Bluefield know that the sight of loose dogs darting in and out of traffic on busy streets is an all-too-common sight.

Too often, governments on all levels seek to fix a problem by enacting layers of laws and ordinances aimed at resolving an issue, when all that is really needed is a committed effort of enforcement of codes already on the books.

Additionally, we would like to see an effort by city and county leaders, animal welfare organizations, shelter volunteers and animal lovers across the region to address the larger issues such as pet overpopulation and irresponsible ownership.

The animal issues evident across southern West Virginia did not occur overnight, and there will be no quick and simple fix. But a united effort on all levels may begin to address the problems.