By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Today is the last day Bluefield owners of pit bulls can register their dogs with the city of Bluefield.
The Bluefield Board of Directors voted April 23 to ban pit bulls from the city. Residents who have pit bulls already were given 10 business days after that date to register those dogs with the city. The Bluefield Municipal Building opens at 8 a.m., and dogs will be registered until 5 p.m. today, said City Manager Jim Ferguson.
“The publicity has helped build awareness of the existing ordinances as well as the new ordinance,” Ferguson said Monday. “This awareness has resulted in many citizens not only registering their pit bulls, but coming in and getting dog tags.”
In Bluefield, dogs must be vaccinated, and spayed or neutered before tags will be issued, he said. Many of the people who apply for dog tags did not know about these requirements.
“This has resulted in over 100 people coming in and getting dog tags, and consequently have their animals vaccinated or spayed and neutered,” Ferguson said.
As of Monday, 97 owners of 133 pit bulls in Bluefield had been registered since discussion about the ban began. The police and fire departments now have records about “potentially dangerous animals” and citizens have a better understanding of responsible pet ownership, he stated.
Ferguson said the ban on pit bulls could be amended if the board of directors decided to do so.
“They could even lift this at some point if they so desire, if they feel it (pit bulls) is under control,” he added.
Pit bull puppies do not have to be registered until they are at least six months old. Pit bulls and wolf hybrids cannot be brought into the city after today. Owners could be cited and their dog or dogs could be seized.
“We would obtain a court order and take the dog to the animal shelter. The owner would be cited, would have to appear in city court, and then the judge would determine the penalty and what would happen to the animal,” Ferguson said. “The animal could be destroyed and the owner could have a $1,000 fine as well.”
County Commission President Mike Vinciguerra previously told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph the county shelter would accept pit bulls picked up in Bluefield only if it was accompanied by a court order signed by a city judge. If there is no court order, the owner could come to the county animal shelter within five days and claim the dog, Vinciguerra said.
The ban’s enforcement will be handled primarily by the city’s animal control officer. Police officers can enforce the ban as well, he said.