Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pet owners pile on to oppose wording of Salem ordinance

By Mary Ann Greier, Salem News

Pet owners packed city council chambers Tuesday night regarding revisions planned for the ordinance dealing with animals, including a store owner who sells some of the exotic pets the proposal could ban.
Emily Ellsworth, co-owner of Pure Pet, located on East State Street downtown, addressed the Rules and Ordinances Committee of city council regarding the animal ordinance, specifically the new section proposed for wild or exotic animals.
Several other residents questioned whether the ordinance was banning pit bulls, but Committee Chair Councilman John Berlin said "we're not trying to prevent someone from having one."
He explained the committee wasn't reviewing the section of the animal ordinance dealing with vicious dogs, with fellow committee member Councilman K. Bret Apple adding the way that section reads now is the way he plans to leave it. He said the existing language does not ban pit bulls.
Salem resident and pit bull owner Scott Dailey said the wording in the new section of the legislation leads to a gray area, pointing out that the state of Ohio defines all pit bulls as vicious at birth. A line in the new part of the legislation which lists animals exempt from the wild and exotic ban included "nonvicious dogs."
Dailey explained that since the state defines a pit bull as a vicious dog, then that would mean the pit bull would be banned from Salem the way the legislation is written.
"I just don't want to see breed-specific legislation come to Salem," he said.
Salem resident Sam Havelock said he raised three children around pit bulls and said the city needs to look more at irresponsible owners.
That was also one of the points raised by Ellsworth, who said it was "wrong to blanket all responsible exotic pet owners into a group with the extreme minority who give reason for concern."
She went into great detail about what she called "harmless unusual pets," such as reptiles commonly kept as pets nationwide, including crested geckos, gargoyle geckos, tree frogs, bearded dragon lizards, corn snakes, king snakes, milk snakes, ball pythons, red tail boa or common boa of South America. She also talked about tarantulas and scorpions available in the pet trade and ferrets.
Ellsworth also went into detail with death statistics from drowning, firearms, motor vehicle accidents and child abuse and neglect, and the fact that Salem was ranked number two in drug-related deaths in Columbiana County.
"If we want to talk about danger to our own community, we need to look past the snakes, geckos, tortoises, chinchillas, and ferrets and focus our minds , hearts, time, and money on something that's actually hurting and killing people right here in our own community," she said.
She suggested the proposed ordinance be reworked with the input of people who are experts in the fields being questioned.
"Laws should have a sound, reasonable foundation and be clear-cut with no gray area or room for misinterpretation," she said.
The ordinance first came up for review when clarification was requested regarding the number of dogs and cats permitted in one household, with the number limited to a total combination of five.
The ordinance will come up for further review, with a meeting date for the committee to be set.

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