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May 30, 2020

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Ada council moves closer to approving stiffer penalties against owners of vicious dogs

Legislation would not target pit bulls or other breeds

Story and photo by Amy Eddings
The Ada village council moved closer to approving stiffer penalties against owners of vicious or dangerous dogs, following the attack last August of an Ada couple and their two small dogs by a pit bull that had escaped its kennel.  

The legislation would not ban or target pit bulls or any other breed, a focus that council members had previously considered.  
“I changed my opinion a lot on that after I talked to my vet, and my sister, who has five dogs”  councilor Bob Simmons said. “It’s true, any dog can bite."

The possibility of a pit bull ban or other breed-specific legislation had raised the hackles of many pit bull owners in Ada and other communities, and they had come out in force to previous meetings on the issue.  Nine dog owners, including some wearing pink T-shirts that stated, Don’t Bully My Breed, were in attendance at the meeting Tuesday night at the Depot.

Among them was Steffen Baldwin, a dog trainer, owner and advocate from Union County.  Baldwin, a member of the Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, told council members that, as a non-resident, he didn’t want to tell them “how to do things.”  He offered himself as a resource for other ways, besides bans, to deal with problem dogs.

“I have a lot of experience with the worst of the worst,” he said.  “I just want to be a resource for you guys."
Baldwin said Montreal recently passed a pit bull ban, only to face a lawsuit.

“I’m not here to save all the pit bulls,” he said.  “I think there’s a good way to do this without focusing on breeds."

In reviewing draft legislation put forward by the village’s legal counsel, Jane Napier, council members and Police Chief Michael Harnishfeger proposed some changes.  They included adding tethering violations aimed at preventing dog owners from keeping their dogs tied up outside for long periods and keeping a first offense for a loose dog as a minor misdemeanor instead of a third degree misdemeanor.
“That’s awful stiff,” said Chief Harnishfeger.  “Regarding background checks, if someone wants a decent job, a minor misdemeanor is different from a misdemeanor in the first, second or third degree."

Once the legislation’s wording is finalized, it will get three readings and the council will vote on it three times.  If it passes all three readings, it will go into effect after 30 days, unless it’s declared an emergency.