Last night’s pit bull ordinance vote, summerized

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

Last night the city council voted in a revised pit bull ordinance while holding another portion of it. It was a long, confusing, multi-vote process that ultimately pushed through a semi-less stringent ordinance than the previous incarnation, while leaving out the part of it that would make it less stringent. Confused? Let’s map this out:

In July, 2010 the original pit bull ordinance was unveiled, calling for the following laws:

1) Pit bulls would have to be specially licensed, along with a normal city-issued dog license (this includes another $50 fee)
2) Pit bulls would have to be leashed and muzzled (or confined) when off their owner’s property
3) Owners would need consent from their land lords to keep a pit on premises
4) Owners would have to place a sign on their property indicating a pit bull lives there
5) Owners would have to notify police/animal control whenever their pit bull threatens, injures or  menaces any person or animal
6) Animal control and police have the authority to impound pit bulls not in compliance with any of the above
7) Owners would have the right to a hearing regarding violations of these laws

After the marathon public comment portion at the beginning of an August 10 meeting and general civil outcry, certain councilors (specifically Eddy and Toomey) revised the ordinance and brought that before the council yesterday. Here were the proposed amendments:

1) Something that was referred to as the “Lynn exception.” This would exclude pit bulls/and other dangerous dogs who were certified service dogs or passed an exam saying they were of good temperament (although if a dog is “dangerous,” I’ll wager it probably wouldn’t be a service dog or have a good temperament) (Eddy)
2) Adding the words “and other dangerous dogs” after any instance of the words “pit bull” to the legislation (Toomey)
3) A task force would be established consisting of interested parties from Tufts vet school, an animal control officer and other people with dog experience. This task force would go about establishing what would be on the test to exempt dogs of good temperament from the ordinance, and to clarify what a dangerous dog would be (Toomey)
4) New revenue generated from pit bull licensing would go into a fund specifically for the purpose of hiring a new animal control officer (Toomey)

Number three is what caused the most stir among the councilors. Toomey was/is still an avid supporter of having an outside group of “experts” make recommendations to the council, while Clancy and Palmieri wanted it to go to subcommittee and have councilors hammer out a definition (assumidly taking into consideration these experts’ testimonies at a public hearing or two). To confuse matters even more, Rushton said he supported the revised ordinance and all amendments in theory, but only if there’s a definition to what would/wouldn’t constitute a dangerous dog, which wouldn’t happen that night as that would be determined by a task force or subcommittee. Germain weighed in saying this had gotten too confusing, and the whole thing should be sent back to committee, worked on, and brought back to council as one single ordinance.

Here’s the gist of the voting:

-The motion to establish the parameters of what a dangerous dog is and isn’t via subcommittee rather than a task force failed by one vote. Clancy, Palmieri, Haller, Lukes and Smith all voted for scrapping the task force and keeping it within the council.

-The following vote was to send the entire ordinance and the new amendments to be revamped in subcommittee. Only Germain and Lukes voted for that, and that failed as well.

-The main vote followed, which would put the ordinance as proposed by Eddy into law. That vote passed with all but Germain and Mayor O’Brien in support.

-Toomey’s idea to add “and all dangerous dogs” to the language passed 10-1, with only O’Brien’s protest vote in dissent.

-Palmieri and Clancy were the only two to vote against having all new revenue from licensing dogs go towards hiring another animal control officer.

-And then the task force: no vote was taken because Clancy held the motion. (Clancy has more holds this summer than the Red Sox bullpen–zing!)

So where does that put us? The pit bull ordinance goes into effect on April 1 of 2011 with tougher rules for pit bulls, other dangerous dogs and their owners, but there’s not yet a definition of what a dangerous dog is, or how a pit bull can show good temperament and avoid some of the restrictions.



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3 responses to “Last night’s pit bull ordinance vote, summerized

  1. This was excellent, Jeremy! Now you’ve saved me hours of work!

  2. Awesome. My only suggestion: make your last sentence the first one.

  3. Worcester Gadfly

    . . . you may have inadvertently created a cool new Worcester word: “summerized”. You could use that to describe the City Council when it can’t be bothered to meet for months on end and then rushes back to draft ordinances using brains that have been in the sun too long.

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