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Council won’t ban pitbulls

Animal regulations may get more bite
By: Michelle Miller-Carl Journal News Editor
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The Auburn City Council put worries of a ban on pitbulls to rest Monday. More than a dozen attendees and a few TV news crews turned out for Monday’s council meeting for an item about overhauling animal ordinances in the city. The meeting came days after a judge ruled four pitbulls that attacked a 17-year-old in Auburn on Sept. 16 were “vicious.” The animals will be euthanized, according to previous reports. Last month, City Councilman Kevin Hanley suggested city staff study a restriction or ban on the pitbulls. Pitbull supporters launched a “pit in” to support the breed over the weekend and several attended Monday’s meeting. Mayor Mike Holmes reminded attendees that the council was not about to ban pitbulls. “The city is not going to enact legislation to ban specific breeds from this community,” he said. “State law prohibits this kind of action.” State law allows for regulating specific breeds only through spay/neuter or breeding programs, city attorney Michael Colantuono said. On Monday’s agenda, city staff sought the council’s OK to update the city’s animal regulations, which haven’t been changed since 1997. Colantuono said the city’s lack of zoning ordinances about animals was “unusual and a little old fashioned.” Code enforcement officer Jennifer Solomon said stronger laws on the city books and increased penalties could help control chickens, horses and nuisance animals, such as barking dogs. Councilwoman Bridget Powers asked what changes to city ordinances would have prevented the pitbull attack in Auburn. “It goes back to animal owners’ responsibility,” said Police Chief Valerie Harris. “The big issue here is putting responsibility back on owners.” Harris did encourage citizens to report dogs that may be of concern. Indicators that a owner may not be taking good care of dogs, such as excessive barking or poor sanitation, could help police identify dogs that are being abused and could become dangerous. Hanley mentioned recent pitbull attacks covered in the media, including an incident last month in Merced County in which a 17-month-old boy died. “There are very responsible dog owners out there and some that are not responsible,” he said. “I want to be proactive and prevent a future occurrence.” Dawn Capp of Sacramento organized a “pit in” Sunday and videotaped testimonials from pit bull owners at Regional Park in Auburn. She thanked the council Monday for not seeking a pitbull ban. “There’s individual variance in every breed of dog,” she said earlier. “It’s a matter of selecting and managing an individual dog, not judging every dog by its breed.” But Lynn Howe of Loomis is concerned the council can still seek a breed-targeted spay/neuter program. She said such a program would be a “huge nightmare” because of the difficulty in identifying pitbull mix breeds. She also said Hanley’s list of media stories “sensationalizes” pitbulls when many other dog breeds are responsible for attacks. “This is a witch hunt of an animal,” she said. --------------------------------- auburn city Council notes In other business Monday night: • The Auburn Urban Development Authority awarded a contract for $239,698 to Gabe Mendez, Inc. for the repaving of the jury parking lot in Old Town. Work should start in late November and continue through late January. The work would not interrupt the Auburn Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and would impact up to 30 percent of parking spaces at any given time, said Engineering Division Manager Bernie Schroeder. • Councilman Kevin Hanley reported that city residents have two more weeks to sign a petition asking for greater fire safety in the canyon at auburn.ca.gov. Some 200 signatures have been gathered, he said. • The City Council directed city staff to study uses for city-owned property on Brewery Lane, including possible use as employee parking for Old Town businesses. • Mayor Mike Holmes dedicated the meeting to the memory of those who lost their lives in the Fort Hood shooting.