Mansfield eliminates pit bull ban

Councilman-at-large Don Bryant explains the definitions of vicious and dangerous dogs to Mansfield City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. Council voted to remove the city's pit bull ban from the city ordinances.
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MANSFIELD - Mansfield's pit bull ban is officially gone, while the future of a proposed city animal control officer has not yet been decided.

Mansfield City Council members on Tuesday night voted to remove the city's breed-specific legislation, which banned American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire terriers and any mixed breed of those dogs.

"This ban is not working," said councilman-at-large and safety committee chairman Don Bryant, who abstained from the vote.

The breeds were previously classified as vicious dogs and banned within city limits.

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The city had already temporarily lifted the ban after a state appeals court struck down in April a similar ordinance in Reynoldsburg as unconstitutional.

Tuesday's vote officially removes it from the city's ordinance.

As part of the vote, the city's dangerous dog definition was also amended to describe a dangerous dog as one that "chased or approached a person in either a menacing fashion or an apparent attitude of attack."

Under Mansfield law, vicious dogs include those that killed or injured a person or killed another domestic animal. Dangerous dogs are dogs that chase or try to bite a person without provocation while off their owners' property.

Two other proposed bills would increase penalties for irresponsible dog owners.

"It holds the owner responsible, which is consistent with the battle cry that it's the owners that should be held responsible," said law director John Spon.

One bill would increase penalties for owners, keepers and harborers of dogs who recklessly allow their dog to run at large.

Any owners, keepers or people with control over dogs found running at-large, unaccompanied or unrestrained would be strictly liable to pay or compensate anyone who is injured or sustains damage to their property as a result of a "reckless dog attack," according to the proposed bill.

The requirement is in place regardless of whether or not the attack occurs on or off the owner's or keeper's property.

Bryant said "reckless" means that the person should have known their actions would cause harm.

Spon gave an example of a dog owner letting his dogs out in a backyard with a fence with a hole in it. If the dogs escaped, attacked and injured someone, that would be reckless, he said.

"It creates for the first time strict liability if a person recklessly allowed their dog to run free," Spon said.

The second bill would stiffen penalties against dog owners who recklessly fail to register their dog.

Reckless violations of the two proposed laws would be first-degree misdemeanors, carrying a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a six-month jail sentence.

Spon said current violations are minor misdemeanors.

"This gives some meat to a penalty under our city ordinance that says if you have a dog in the City of Mansfield, you better register it," he said.

The Mansfield Municipal Court would also have the authority to issue an order for payment, compensation or restitution, including veterinarian or medical expenses.

Another proposed bill would create two unfunded animal control officer positions to allow for the future enforcement of the other proposed laws.

One position would be added to the police department's civilian personnel, with a pay range of $31,200 to $45,864. The second position would be added to the police department's sworn safety personnel, with a pay range of $42,167 to $59,528.

The money is not currently available to fund the position, said Mayor Tim Theaker.