Not everyone agrees that Fairfield should stop pit bull ban: What both sides say

The city of Fairfield will look to revamp its animal laws after a local woman questioned its 13-year-old pit bull ban, but one city council member doesn’t see an issue with a breed-specific ban.

In 2006, the city passed an ordinance to ban pit bulls. Six years later, in 2012, the state removed all references to permitting breed-specific bans, and courts have ruledagainst communities banning dogs based on breeds.

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Katherine Hartung, a dog foster with Middletown-based Joseph’s Legacy, emailed City Council on Feb. 15, questioning why the city still had the 13-year-old law on its books.

She said Fairfield “will begin to face (issues) as more and more mixed pit bull-type dogs” are trained to be service dogs, and thus are protected by the American Disabilities Act.

“The city of Fairfield is likely to find itself tied into needless litigation cases settling for thousands of taxpaying residents’ dollars because of an ineffective ban,” Hartung said.

Pit bulls are not a specific breed but a catch-all term for four primary breeds: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

City Manager Mark Wendling told the Journal-News that city council members forwarded the email to him, and a staff review will happen over the next few weeks. He said “no one had questioned it to date.”

Fairfield is the only Butler County community that bans pit bulls.

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Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller said Hartung’s email is an opportunity for the city to overhaul the city’s animal ordinances.

Instead of breed-specific bans, the city could implement laws about “dangerous” and “vicious” dogs, which is the direction Miller believes Fairfield will head. The city will also look at laws pertaining to tethering, having animals outside in extreme temperatures, leash laws and the number of pets allowed, Miller said.

“We also want to look at the classification of the offenses. We need to ramp up and increase the penalties for irresponsible pet owners,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want us to be the most animal-friendly community around, but at the same time I want to be the most strict for irresponsible pet owners.”

There are dozens of communities in Ohio that have some type of ban or restriction on pit bulls, and Fairfield is one of more than a dozen with an outright ban.

Most communities have ordinances that prohibit “dangerous” and “vicious” dogs, which are defined by state law.

Fairfield Councilman Ron D’Epifanio doesn’t like the fact the state reversed its laws, and does not want to see the city change its ordinance.

“I want to see it the way it is in Fairfield,” D’Epifanio said of the pit bull ban. He admits there are some “sweet” pit bull dogs, but “it all comes right down to that breed.”

In Butler County, there are 70 dogs classified as “dangerous,” and just one “vicious” dog, said Butler County Dog Warden supervisor Kurt Merbs.

“I’ve never been an advocate for banning a breed,” he said. “I don’t agree with it.”

A dog’s temperament has a lot to do with its aggressiveness, as well as how it’s raised. He said a dog living in the house and treated like part of the family will act “very differently” than a dog kept outside and is “treated like a lawn ornament.”

Miller said it could take a few months before new legislation comes before City Council.

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