Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 16, 2013

City officials consider pit bull ban

By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Local animal advocates are urging the city of Bluefield to enforce current ordinances regulating pit bulls instead of banning the canine.

The Bluefield City Board recently authorized City Attorney Brian Cochran to draft a new ordinance that would ban pit bulls from the city. Dog owners would have up to 10 days, if the ordinance is passed, to comply with current city regulations. After that period, no new pit bulls would be allowed in the city.

The proposed ordinance would allow current pit bull owners to keep their dogs if they are in compliance with existing ordinances, City Attorney Brian Cochran said after the city board authorized him to draft a ban ordinance. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals recently upheld a pit bull ban started in 1996 by the city of Ceredo.

Cochran said after the meeting that he might have a draft ordinance the city board could examine during its March 26 meeting.

Local animal advocates have said that the city should focus more on enforcing current regulations.

“There’s a reason to look at laws that exist now and stronger enforcement of those laws,” said Katharine Nelson, president of the Mercer County Spay Association. “That’s what we need to look at now. My thought is if we had these laws put in place, there was a reason for it. Why not use them?”

In many cases, dogs that injure people have been abused or left chained up with no socialization, Nelson said. Enforcing laws that address animal cruelty, keeping dogs on a leash, spay and neutering, vaccinations and tags would be a better way to monitor pit bulls, she added.

“I do appreciate the city’s attempt to continue to offer a safer environment and I’m grateful they’re taking their time to address these issues,” she said. “I would like to see them redirect their focus on the owners rather than the animals.”

Local animal advocates are encouraging pet owners to attend the Bluefield City Board’s next public meeting on March 26.

“Please attend the meeting,” said advocate Ginny Hill of Bluefield. “We need everyone’s voice to be heard.”

Owners of pit bulls must register their dogs with the Bluefield Police Department. The dogs must be muzzled and on a secure leash when they are taken outside their homes. If they are kept in a kennel, it must be securely locked and have a top that is attached to all four sides of the kennel. Dog owners interested in reading current codes regarding pit bulls can go to the Bluefield Municipal Building.