Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
Last September the city council passed Worcester’s “Responsible Pit Bull Ordinance,” a piece of legislation that increased fees for owning pit bulls and forces owners to alert the public that they’re walking around with or have pit bulls/dangerous dogs.
As we’ve reported before,the applications have been sent out and the ordinance goes into effect on April 1 but there’s still confusion surrounding what’s exactly in it.
First of all, there hasn’t yet been any establishment of, or plans to establish, any ad-hoc group or subcommittee to look at providing exemptions to the ordinance for pit bulls that show good temperament, an idea that was provided to the City Manager’s office as the ordinance was voted in last September.
The latest question regarded the increased fees for owning a pit bull — two weeks ago Billy Eddy (with agreement from the rest of the council) brought up that maybe owners of pit bulls working as service dogs weren’t exempted from the fee increase (an additional $50 annually). In response the council unanimously expressed that this should be amended.
In a legal brief from City Solicitor David Moore to the city council, however, he says they’ve already got it:
Such an ordinance amendment is not necessary because section (j) of the ordinance was amended prior to final adoption to include the following exemption:
No dog that is trained and relied upon as a service dog or assistance dog by a person with a disability shall be subject to 12A, nor shall a dog which has successfully completed a dog or canine training program from a facility or instructor possessing a nationally accredited certification in dog training unless otherwise deemed a dangerous dog under section 12 of this chapter.
It looks like any service pit bull is exempt from all aspects of the ordinance, as do pit bulls with training certifications. But this still doesn’t incorporate City Councilor Kate Toomey’s idea to have a local body create guidelines for dogs that show “good temperament” but haven’t been through formal training. It’s close to what Toomey proposed, but not there yet. Those of you with very friendly pit bulls but without the accreditation papers to vouch for them, you’re still on the hook.