BLUEFIELD — Pit bull owners who have faced restrictions in the City of Bluefield may see that change next year.
Dane Rideout, city manager, said one item on the city’s agenda for 2020 is to take another look at its Vicious Animal Ordinance, which now includes wolf hybrids and pit bulls.
The ordinance “severely restricts the ownership of such animals.”
“While there have been no cases involving wolf hybrids, Code Enforcement frequently encounters pit bulls, many of which exhibit no harmful behaviors but which are nonetheless restricted within the city,” Rideout said. “This ordinance is particularly difficult to enforce, and often involves the city expending money on DNA testing to determine whether a dog is or is not a pit bull.”
The ordinance also can be a roadblock for people wanting to move into the city, he added.
“This ordinance makes it difficult for potential new residents owning pit bulls to move to Bluefield, as they face a choice between keeping a beloved family pet or selecting another place to live,” he said. “Additionally, the ordinance’s definition of pit bulls focuses on a breed or group of breeds and does not address numerous other breeds which can, if improperly raised, be as dangerous as or more dangerous than pit bulls.”
Rideout said the city’s legal department has a goal in 2019 to rewrite and eliminate specific language regarding pit bulls and instead focus on dangerous animals and those experiencing improper care.
“This goal has not yet been advanced but it has the support of the Chief of Police and of Code Enforcement,” Rideout said. “The pit bulls are a particularly sensitive issue as this is a favorite breed of many of our citizens.”
Animal advocacy groups such as AVMA and the ASPCA do not support breed-specific ordinances and prefer to focus on vicious or nuisance animals, he pointed out.
“Our ordinance, with respect to pit bulls, is nearly impossible to enforce and requires Code Enforcement to order citizens to remove dogs that have committed no harm,” he said. “There are many examples of vicious animal ordinances that are endorsed by animal advocacy groups that would be easier to enforce.”
Rideout said the city wants to place such an ordinance on the agenda for adoption next year.
That is good news for Cindy Mabardy, who was at the Mercer County Animal Shelter Friday and understands first-hand the prejudice against pit bulls.
She is the co-founder of pit bull Second Chance Rescue but had to close her doors recently and was at the shelter to bring two rescued pit bulls.
“Due to so much negativity about these dogs, it has caused a lot of ignorance in many people and becoming very closed-minding on judging them without even knowing them,” she said. “It’s very anti-pit bull around here.”
Mabardy said the organization is non-profit and depends on donations, but had to close on July 31 because of lack of funding.
“We are still doing everything in our power to sponsor, foster and get them into good homes in our area here and help them medically,” she said. “We are just not able to house them in a building any more.”
Mabardy said she hopes the organization can reopen at some point but “right now, it’s just not possible.”
One of the two pit bulls she brought to the shelter had already been adopted.
Pit bulls are often overlooked in adoptions, she said, and people have the misunderstanding that the breed is vicious when it is not.
“That is very sad because they are phenomenal dogs,” she said, adding that humans cause dogs to be vicious, not the dog. “They don’t choose to be that way. They are taught to be that way.”
Bluefield’s plan to change the ordinance that discriminates against pit bulls is like “a hundred million Christmases,” she said, adding that she has no problem with a vicious animal ordinance but to label a specific breed is “unfair and prejudiced. It is not right. We are all creatures of God and deserve love and respect … All they (pit bulls) want to do is love you.”
Mabardy said she hopes lifting the ban will open the way to allow more pit bulls who need forever homes to be adopted.
Ashley Bailey of Bluewell was also at the shelter Friday and adopted one of Mabardy’s pit bulls.
“I have always loved pit bulls,” she said. “I had pit bulls when I was younger … and they are the best dogs.”
Bailey agreed the ban should be lifted.
“It’s not the pit bull’s fault,” she said. “It’s the owners and how they raise them. They can be the gentlest dogs ever.”
Bailey said the pit bull she adopted will be her “cuddle buddy.”
— Contact Charles Boothe at firstname.lastname@example.org