Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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April 26, 2013

Mercer County has no plans to enforce pit bull rule

PRINCETON — A new city of Bluefield ban on pit bulls might send more of those dogs to the Mercer County Animal Shelter, but one county official says owners of the breed would be able to go there and reclaim them just like any other dog.

Pit bulls the city brings to the county animal shelter would be handled like any other animal brought to the facility, County Commissioner Gene Buckner said. He adds that county animal control officers will not be enforcing Bluefield’s pit bull ban.

“We abide by state code, and there is no state code against pit bulls,” Buckner said. “That is a city code, and they will have to enforce it. Not us.”

If a pit bull is brought to the Mercer County Animal Shelter after it is confiscated from an owner in Bluefield, the dog will be handled like any other dog that is dropped off at the shelter. The county is not in “the animal containment business,” Buckner said.

If the owner appears within a reasonable amount of time, usually five days, he or she can claim the dog, he said. The dog’s breed would not make any difference.

“They (city of Bluefield) are the ones putting a stipulation on the breed, not the county,” Buckner said. “Whether he (the dog owner) lives in Bluefield or southern California, it makes no difference.”

However, if the county commission refuses to recognize the city ordinance — and if confiscated pit bulls are released back to their owners in Bluefield in violation of the city’s pit bull ban — the city will take the county to court, Bluefield Mayor Linda Whalen said.

“Because when they do that they would be ignoring an order of the municipal court system,” Whalen said. “If in fact the commission (does) that it will become a circuit court issue. We try to be good citizens for the whole county, and we would expect the same from the county commission.”

Whalen said the city of Bluefield doesn’t “refuse” to hold county inmates at its holding facility at the Bluefield City Jail. She said the city operated Bluefield Area Transit also doesn’t refuse to pick up residents who live outside of the city limits.

“We provide a jail that saves the county untold thousands of dollars,” she said.

Buckner said the county commission would be “okay with that” if the city of Bluefield decided to take the issue to circuit court. The county is going to abide by state code and it is not mandated to enforce the municipal ordinance.

“As our attorneys have told us, we’re not bound to do that,” Buckner said.

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