Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

April 16, 2013

Grid by grid: Police cite citizens not complying with pit bull ordinance

BLUEFIELD — Police in Bluefield are going “grid-by-grid” through the city as part of a crackdown on those violating the city’s current pit bull ordinance.

Police Chief D.M. Dillow said as of Monday 33 owners have registered 45 pit bulls with the police department as mandated by the city ordinance.

Though the ordinance was originally passed in 2008, Dillow said recent awareness has led many owners to take steps to ensure their pets are complying with the ordinance. But infractions are still happening.

“We have had a lot of citations,” Dillow said. “After an owner is cited, they still have to register the animal. We haven’t checked the whole town, of course, but we are going grid-by-grid checking for the dogs. By and large, the responsible owners are doing what they should do. There are some issues with animals not being correctly muzzled or confined, but people are trying to be cooperative.”

Though many pit bull owners have registered, City Manager Jim Ferguson said the city has found at least 30 pit bulls that were not registered in the past several weeks.

“I think we have seen a great response from citizens overall, but we have also found those who have not been responsible owners,” Ferguson said. “We have cited owners of at least 30 different dogs that were unregistered. We estimated there are at least 75 pit bulls in our community, and around 30 pit bulls have not been registered and owners were cited for that.”

Dillow said one man came to the police department last week to register his pit bulls and claimed to have 15 dogs. Dillow said city ordinance limits owners to having a maximum three cats and/or dogs in one household.

“He was taking in dogs and breeding them,” Dillow said. “He came up to register them with the city and we went out to check on the conditions. However, by the time we got to the residence, he had given away all but seven of the dogs. He had someone coming to pick up four of the dogs so he would only have the three allowed by city ordinance, but he was cited for having four more dogs than allowed when the officer got there.”

Dillow said the man was also cited for failing to muzzle and confine the dogs on his property as per the city ordinance.

Ferguson said other owners have been cited for failure to comply with the muzzling and confinement specifications in the ordinance.

“There was a pit bull recently that was being chained to a dog house without a muzzle, and the owner was cited for having the dog improperly housed,” Ferguson said. “We have seen a few cases like that. There are a lot of irresponsible owners we have found.”

Additionally, Dillow said owners are also becoming aware of the three-animal limit on both cats and dogs.

“We have places where people have other animals with their pit bulls,” he said. “You are allowed up to three animals, whether they are cats or dogs.”

Ferguson said residents can request to house additional animals, but the request must be approved by the city.

“Anything over three they need the city manager’s approval,” Ferguson said. “They can contact me and tell me why they need more than three animals. There is no one who has contacted me or made any sort of request seeking an exception to this so far. I would be willing to give one if I could know the reason and that the animal will be taken care of properly.”

Ferguson said residents have had plenty of opportunity to make sure their animals are in compliance with the pit bull ordinance.

“We have been talking about this for between six weeks and two months now,” Ferguson said. “It has been brought up several times in board meetings and in the newspaper. People have had plenty of opportunity to understand and educate themselves about the ordinance and to comply.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com

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