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Council must back its decision

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By The Staff

We think there's a major question that County Council members need to consider before they enact more stringent animal-control laws. And that is: Is the county planning to hire more animal-control personnel to make sure that people abide by the rules? We're cynical, so we find ourselves questioning whether there would be any real point to such legislation.

Council on Monday gave the first of three approvals to an ordinance that would tighten several of the county's animal control laws, including how an owner provides water and shelter for dogs kept outside.

The ordinance would designate pit bulls, American bull dogs and perro de Presa Canario dogs, or Canary dogs, as dangerous. Pit bulls have gotten a bad reputation in recent years because they are sometimes used in illegal dog fighting. Canary dogs are a large mastiff-like breed from the Canary Islands used to guard livestock that are gaining in popularity. Last year, an American bulldog attacked a girl in Lancaster County.

Under the ordinance, owners of these breeds would have to register their animals annually, provide proof of liability insurance and have their dogs wear a fluorescent yellow or orange collar that identifies them as a dangerous breed.

The ordinance specifies that if these breeds are not kept indoors, they are to be kept in a pen of heavy-gauge wire with a minimum 4-inch thick concrete floor, with 8-feet sides or a secure top. The dog owners would also have to post at least one warning sign that reads, "Caution - dangerous animal on this property."

Though council gave first reading to the ordinance Monday, council members made it clear that they intend to amend it - perhaps even drastically - before finalizing it. Council Chairman Rudy Carter also sought to quiet the concerns of a crowd packed with residents, who were mostly opposed to the proposed ordinance. Carter said a citizens committee would be appointed to work with council on tweaking the ordinance.

Still residents were passionate in their pleas to council. Some pit bull owners argued before council that the breed of dog they love is unfairly mischaracterized by the general public. They're not a dangerous breed by nature. They and their families have lived with them for years, and never had a problem, they said.

Some others, however, argued that pit bulls do, in fact, have a different temperament than most other breeds of dogs, and they've unfortunately lived through traumatic events where the "good-natured" neighbor's dog has turned on someone in their family to cause them serious bodily harm.

When council studies this issue, they need to give both sides their deserved credence. Council members also must be practical and honest with themselves. They should only approve more stringent animal-control regulations if they're willing to say: "Yes, we will spend the money necessary to enforce these new regulations."