Public reacts to proposed pitbull ordinance

Councilman says city will have limits
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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A report on how the city could handle animal problems may be a month away, but elected officials have already received plenty of feedback from the public. Auburn City Councilman Kevin Hanley has asked city staff to look at ways to address problems with fighting-breed dogs such as pitbulls. His possible proposals to either ban the breed completely from city limits or impose restrictions drew reaction from people on both sides of the issue. “I’ve received probably a dozen or more e-mails a day and a lot of cell phone calls,” Hanley said Wednesday. “I’ve been receiving a lot of phone calls from both residents concerned about pitbulls and what to do about them and lots of suggestions.” Hanley’s request for what actions the city can take came after a September incident during which a 17-year-old Weimar resident was attacked and severely injured by four pitbulls in a Downtown Auburn parking lot. On Wednesday, Auburn City Manager Bob Richardson said the city attorney and police chief are taking the lead on compiling information for a report on what possible actions the city council can take regarding pets and their owners. “We’ve got out work cut out for us to get that report together,” Richardson said. He estimated that the report would be before the council in about a month. Councilman Bill Kirby said he thinks it’s a good time to take a look at the city’s current laws and whether they can be improved. “I think we need to examine carefully how the rules against violent pets and owners who are irresponsible are enforced and look at our legislation and our ordinances to see if we need to anything to improve that,” Kirby said. Hanley added that over the course of e-mail and phone conversations he has learned that state law prohibits Auburn from outright banning a breed from the city. He said the law outlines that cities can only enact ordinances related to mandatory spay-and-neuter breeding requirements. “We are restricted as far as the city of Auburn in what we can do,” Hanley said. In a letter to the editor, Nevada County attorney Susan Wallace said that city officials should not hurt the breed and rather should focus on the pet owner. “State Law does not allow this councilman’s quick-fix proposal to become law and he likely knows it, or should,” Wallace wrote. “But it makes a nice sound bite at the expense of great animals (pitbulls) and gives him lots of kudos for appearing to solve a problem that isn’t solved by outlawing a specific breed of dog.” Hanley said he’s received a number of e-mails from pitbull-related organizations. He said that he hopes to continue the “courteous” exchange about the issue. “I do appreciate residents when they give me their opinion,” Hanley said. “Everybody has been courteous so that’s a good way to approach a public policy issue I think.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at ---------- ‘Vicious’ pitbull decision pending The city of Auburn has yet to receive a judgment on its petition to declare four pitbulls as vicious. On Wednesday, Auburn Police Capt. John Ruffcorn said the city still hasn’t received a decision from Judge Joseph O’Flaherty after he presided over a hearing involving four dogs that attacked a teen in Downtown Auburn Sept. 16. The hearing, held Oct. 16, was held to present evidence as to whether or not the four dogs should be declared as vicious. The vicious designation means the animals could then be euthanized. ----------