Thursday, July 22, 2010

Animal shelter won't accept Worcester dogs if pit bull plan is adopted

By Linda Bock, News Telegram

The Worcester Animal Rescue League will no longer accept dogs from Worcester if a proposed city ordinance to impose more restrictions and requirements on pit bulls is adopted.

“The Worcester Animal Rescue League values the long-standing relationship it has built with the City of Worcester,” said Allie Simone, acting director of the Worcester Animal Rescue League in a news release. “However, it is not currently held by a contract to accept impounded dogs found in Worcester.”

The City Council — in a unanimous vote — gave preliminary approval Tuesday to the ordinance. It agreed to hold a 30-minute public hearing on the ordinance Aug. 10 before taking a final vote that night on the proposal.

While the ordinance does not ban pit bulls or restrict them to private property, it establishes additional licensing, duties and registration requirements for the owners of those dogs. It also requires pit bulls to be leashed and muzzled, or placed in a secure temporary enclosure, when taken off an owner's premises.

The Animal Rescue League said if the ordinance is adopted, countless dogs will be abandoned and consequently seized in record numbers.

“The dedicated staff and supporters have worked too hard and advanced the organization too far in the quality of care given to its animals to suddenly reverse our no-kill, limited intake policies. This ordinance would be asking us to take a giant step backwards, becoming once again a kill shelter,” Ms. Simone wrote. “We wish to be very clear: The Worcester Animal Rescue League will have no part in euthanizing dogs or any other animal due to breed discrimination.”

The ordinance also requires pit bull owners to obtain the consent of their landlord to keep a pit bull on the premises, place a warning sign on their property informing the public that a pit bull is on the premises, and notify animal control officers or the police whenever their pit bull injures or threatens any person or animal.

The Animal Rescue League has 96 kennels for dogs and 41 cages for cats and a limited number of foster home caregivers, the agency said. Adoption rates have dropped and surrender rates have risen because of the ailing economy, the agency said.

A simple majority vote of the 11-member council is needed for adoption.

If approved by the council, the ordinance would take effect 90 days after final adoption, or on April 1, whichever comes later.

The ordinance authorizes animal control officers or the police to impound pit bulls not in compliance with it, and it also provides owners with the right to a hearing for any violations or impoundment of their pit bull.
The public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. in the Esther Howland Chamber at City Hall.

Update August 9, 2010 8:21am - The following article is by Nick Kotsopoulis, News Telegram:

Pit bull stance has city seeking other animal services

With the Worcester Animal Rescue League threatening to stop accepting stray or abandoned dogs from Worcester if the City Council adopts the so-called “pit bull” ordinance, the city has issued a bid for animal shelter services.

City Manager Michael V. O’Brien said all bids are due to the Purchasing Division by 10 a.m. Friday. He said there has been interest and the city expects to be in a position to award that contract as soon as the bids are open to ensure continuity of those services for use by the Police Department and its animal control officers.

Mr. O’Brien said the city spends an average of $50,000 annually on those services.

The council will be taking up the pit bull ordinance tomorrow night — it will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. in the Esther Howland Chamber. The council has given preliminary approval to the ordinance, which would impose more restrictions and licensing requirements for pit bulls.

The ordinance, which had been requested by the council, is modeled after Boston’s Responsible Pit Bull Ownership ordinance. While the ordinance does not ban pit bulls or restrict them to private property, it establishes additional licensing, duties and registration requirements for the owners of those dogs.

It also requires pit bulls to be leashed and muzzled, or placed in a secure temporary enclosure, when taken off an owner’s premises.

In addition, the ordinance requires pit bull owners to obtain the consent of their landlord to keep a pit bull on the premises, place a warning sign on their property informing the public that a pit bull lives there, and notify animal control officers or the police whenever their pit bull injures or threatens any person or animal.

Allie Simone, acting director of the Worcester Animal Rescue League, has complained that the council has not thought through the ramifications of the ordinance. She said shelter administrators were never consulted about its potential impact.

While the rescue league values the longstanding relationship it has built with the city, she said, it is not currently held by a contract to accept dogs brought to it by city animal control officers or the police.

She said if the pit bull ordinance is adopted, the group will no longer accept dogs from Worcester because it will not be able to take on the number of pit bulls that may end up there. 

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