Heights councils hears concerns about pit bulls

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS – Breed specific legislation against pit bulls was not on the agenda at the city council meeting on Sept. 24, but the issue still drew many residents and some members from the surrounding communities to city hall to speak their opinions.

So many showed up to speak on the issue that Council President Kenneth Baron began by advising those in attendance that the council had not prepared for anything about dog ownership to be discussed at the meeting and that he was surprised by the turnout, which was about 60 people.

“At this point we have no intent to talk about anything that has to do with animals, animal control, pit bulls or an ordinance about pit bulls,” Baron said.

He added that members of the audience would be given the opportunity to speak on the matter if they wished after the items on the agenda were concluded.

After the council finished going through the agenda, the floor was turned over to members of the public, who lined up to address each other and the council both for and against stricter ordinances against pit bulls.

Chris Kozlowski, a Dearborn Heights resident, told the council that her dog was attacked by a pit bull. She said that a neighbor’s pit bull jumped over the fence into her yard and that she had to physically restrain the animals from fighting until the neighbor came over to retrieve his dog.

“I want the city to do something about these dogs,” Kozlowski said.

Ronald Alexander, another Dearborn Heights resident, said he has been breeding and rescuing pit bulls for 10 years without an incident from the animals. He said that the problems develop because of the way dogs are raised and treated by their owners, not something inherent within the breed.

“Don’t blame the dog, blame the owner,” Alexander said. “If you cannot properly train your dog, do not own it.”

Michelle Arnett, a Garden City resident, said that her heart went out to anyone whose dog is attacked by another dog, but that legislation specifically against one breed wasn’t the answer.

“Breed specific legislation only hurts the responsible dog owner,” Arnett said. “Blaming one breed is not going to give a resolution to the problem.”

She added that the energy expended in arguing should be used to combat the issue of stray dogs in Wayne County and to educate current and future dog owners about different breeds.

“We need to come together as a community and not be divided,” Arnett said. “We need to promote education and responsible dog ownership.”

Dave Barry, an owner of two American pit bulls, said he takes his dogs on walks or runs every day of the year. He added that the blaming of specific dog breeds is not new.

“Years ago it was German shepherds, then Dobermans or Rottweilers and now it’s pit bulls,” Barry said. “All dogs, big or small, are possibly dangerous and owners have to make sure they take steps to be as safe as possible.”

He stated that law-abiding dog owners should not be punished because other owners do not follow local laws.

“People should follow the laws and make sure their dogs are registered and kept on leashes and under control or they should not be allowed to own dogs,” Barry said.

City ordinances mandate that dogs must be registered with the city and that they must be either confined or chained up for public safety.

Baron told the audience that the city is very interested in having the current ordinances followed, but that they need help from the community to make sure that dogs are licensed.

“If you know that of dogs are not registered or you suspect that they aren’t registered and you know the houses they are in, please get in contact with the city clerk’s office or the ordinance office so that we can check up on them,” Baron said.

The idea of new legislation was recently brought up by a Heights couple after their dog was attacked and killed by a pit bull that got away from its owner. The incident happened about 6:30 a.m. Sept. 12.

The owner of the small dog told police that he had been walking down Monroe, west of Katherine, when his dog was attacked. He said he struck the pit bull with a small wooden bat that he carried when he went on walks but the bat broke. He also attempted to kick the dog to scare it off but tripped and fell in the street.

When he realized his dog was dead he went to a nearby house and called the police.

Officers who arrived on the scene shot the pit bull for safety reasons and made contact with its owners, who said they were unaware that the dog had gotten out of the yard.

Police also discovered that the animal was not registered with the city.

The owner was ticketed for the offense.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)