City Council Holding Public Hearing On Pitbull Ordinance Tonight

Police, animal control officials say ordinance would be a good first step.


People eager to voice their thoughts on a proposed ordinance regulating the ownership of pitbulls will get a chance at City Hall tonight at the City Council's public hearing, 6:30 p.m. 

The issue has already drawn sizeable crowds during a City Council meeting and work session on the merits of regulating ownership of the breed.

The ordinance, introduced for the first time Oct. 15 by City Council President John Ward, would ban anyone who does not already own a pitbull from acquiring one, require muzzles on existing dogs and require owners to take out $100,000 liability insurance policies on their animals. It would also require a sign warning others that a dangerous dog is kept there, and call for pitbulls to be put down if discovered in violation of the law, or moved outside the city (see attached .pdf).

Among Woonsocket residents, opinion is split between people who have been attacked by pitbulls and owners who say a pitbull-specific law unfairly singles out them and their dogs.

"I'm 67 years old. How can I push away a pitbull? I can't," said Jeanne Riccio, describing how she was recently attacked by a pitbull in the city during the Oct. 15 City Council meeting.

"Can we enforce the laws we have before we make new ones?" said Matthew Desilets during the same meeting. He said people who own pitbulls and don't obey the law, letting the dogs run free, are the problem, not the pitbulls themselves.

In Pawtucket, where they've been using the same pitbull law, (Council President John Ward copied it in his proposal because of the Pawtucket's reported success with it) the ordinance  cuts down on irresponsible pitbull ownership, said Animal Control Officer John Holmes. He said the law encourages owners to spay and neuter the dogs, which reduces the numbers of the dogs, and keeps people who just want to breed and use the dogs irresponsibly out. He said with the law, people who own pitbulls just to breed and sell them as attack dogs don't stay in the city.

City Councilman Bob Moreau, a Woonsocket policeman for 23 years, agreed with Holmes and Police Captain Michael Lemoine, who said pitbulls specifically are the cause of serious dog bites. "I have never gone to any other dog bite call," except for pitbulls, Moreau said.

A regular City Council meeting will follow the public hearing.

Paradis November 06, 2012 at 09:19 PM
It must be hard living with such an unhappy, hate filled mind that's so dark and putrid, filled with imaginary devil dogs that consume your every thought. Please seek help! Go back to your HATE website to seek solace from your weak minded, easily influenced followers. So much hatred, so many names, perhaps you can be Sybil instead of Debbie next time.
Paradis November 06, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Perhaps the people already do charity work, but you'll never know because of your fear, English. Most dogs alert their owners when a stranger knocks on the door, some bark more deeply and loudly than others, that's how they communicate.
Jeanne Hill November 07, 2012 at 01:56 PM
I live in a suburb in the greater Boston area. Pit bulls are not the most common dog in my town, but they cause a disproportionate amount of problems. I know several self-described "responsible" pit bull owners who raised their dogs as well loved family pets..... yet their pit bulls went on to attack and maul other dogs, bite people, and, in one case, actually kill the family dog it grew up with. There is a small but vocal minority of dog owners who have a fetish for this particular breed. Yet virtually every pit bull type dog you see was bred by someone with bad intentions...criminals, drug dealers, dog fighters, gang members, or losers looking to make some beer money. Look on CL, or any on-line classifieds and see where these dogs are being sold from...mostly high crime, urban areas. At worst, many of these dogs are selected for aggressive temperaments, at best temperament is ignored in favor of big heads, the color blue, or whatever the newest thug fashion dictates. Anyone who thinks that the types of people breeding fighting dogs are producing stable family pets is a fool. Pit bull advocates are fighting to allow the continued breeding of a dog hard wired to kill other dogs, and that is reprehensible to me. A good compromise legislation would be manadatory s/n, mandatory microchip, and mandatory insurance coverage. Responsible pit owners should already be in compliance, so they would be unaffected.
Matthew Desilets November 07, 2012 at 07:30 PM
I do consider Boston to be relative to our area as its within an hour from Woonsocket so I thank you for your relative comments. I consider myself to be a responsible dog owner as I put both my dogs through both basic obedience as well as AKC K9 good citizenship classes. I have my dogs fixed and I keep them on a leash at all times and I do not tolerate when they do things they should not do. I know other people who do not do these things but consider themselves responsible owners. The people I have been working with hand in hand to stop this BSL attempt for the most part agree that our dogs should be spayed/neutered our dogs should be microchiped our dogs should be on a leash and our dogs should all be registered/vaccinated. We want firm laws that deal with ALL dogs regardless of size and breeds. I am completely against backyard breeders and people buying puppies from CL. I think that a law that enforces the things that we truly responsible owners already do will stop the backyard breeders who simply mate dogs to make a fast buck. BTW Pit bulls are not "Hard wired" to kill other dogs.. in fact in litters of dogs intended to be fighting dogs only 1 or 2 out of a litter of 2 "champion" fighters will even display the attributes that the scum that are fighting them are looking for and the rest are sold off or killed. The laws that cities try and push through DO affect the legal safe dogs far more than the problem ones as problem people don't follow any laws anyway.
Andie November 07, 2012 at 07:39 PM
I am a vocal dog owner, my dog is a Boxer/Whippet mix, he is affected by muzzle ordinances like this one because his mix of breeds makes him appear like a pitbull. Legislation like what is proposed does not increase public safety, bad dog owners, bad breeders will continue to breed bad dogs and own bad dogs. Jeanne, I'm not sure if you are familiar with the situation in Woonsocket, but this city has NO money. Legislation like this can't be enforced, it simply cannot we don't have the man power in our animal control department, we don't have the additional manpower needed in the police department and there is no way we can get the funds to enforce this law. All this will do, is punish people who are all ready in compliance with exisiting animal control bylaws. It does nothing to correct the problem which stems from those members of the population with dogs that are NOT in compliance. As for breeding, most dogs have been bred away from their original intention in favor of appearance, if you buy your dog from a pet store, you are buying a dog that was bred with no regard for temperament. In fact the parents of that dog probably never leave cages except to be bred, and even then they are simply thrown together in a larger cage. It IS reprehensible, just as the disregard many who breed bully type dogs conduct their breeding. It is however a seperate issue.
Paradis November 07, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Responsible owners of ALL dog breeds/types should already s/n, microchip and insure their dogs, they would be unaffected by such a mandatory law too. Why are you looking on craigslist for dogs that you describe in such derogatory terms? Are you planning to help the "several" irresponsible "pit bull owners" you "know" replace their previous dogs? Do you have "bad intentions" or a strange "fetish" for them?
Jeanne Hill November 08, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Matthew, every organization that promotes responsible pit bull ownership agrees that dog aggression is a breed trait common to pit bull type dogs. From Bad Rap to realpitbull to the long time owners and breeders on the pit bull chat forums. The UKC standard even states that "most APBTs exhibit some level of dog aggression". These organizations advise pit owners to carry break sticks, and to never bring their dog to a dog park. There has never been any organized attempt by any breed club or group of breeders to breed away from dog aggression in the APBT or AmStaff, it is accepted, and even embraced, by many breeders as an integral part of the breed. The ADBA actually promotes and encourages the preservation of the game bred dogs traditionally, and currently, used in organized dog fighting. While not all pit bulls in a litter of fighting dogs will become "champion fighters", most will exhibit some degree of dog aggro behavior by the time they reach sexual maturity (between 2-3 years) ...just as every puppy in a litter of border collies will not grow up to win herding trials, most will exhibit some herding behaviors. There is no breed stewardship happening in the pit bull community...you people cannot police yourselves, or educate other pit bull owners as to the specific handling requirements of your breed. It's time to address the criminal activity and animal abuse that has become an inextricable part of breeding pit bulls through legislation.
Local Resident November 08, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Wow,lots of comments on this subject!!!! I agree it is the owners who are at fault. They are breeding dogs to fight in this city. You can take almost any breed and make them aggressive. There is a hugh population of pitbulls and bulldogs in this city and a huge population of unresponsible owners. I hope new laws are put into force so that those who are "caring & loving" to their pets may keep theirs. I do agree that something needs to be done and very quickly. I am a walker and I see up front and live the problems with crappy owners have this breed. Just bein real.
Andie November 08, 2012 at 06:31 PM
You are right, AmStaffs APBT usually do have some degree of aggression toward other animals. I'm not going to dispute that, it's something that needs to be managed with the dog.However, it is not unique to these types of dogs. Most terriers display aggression toward other animals. Now one could argue that most terriers are smaller dogs, and less likely to cause serious damage, but there are other large terrier breeds, I grew up with an Airedale and given the opportunity he'd get into a scrap with any dog. Know your dog, manage your dog. I agree something needs to be done to stop the abuse of these animals, and all animals. However, breed specific laws have been put into place in several municipalities over the past 20 years and none of them have proven effective. Why copy a model that doesn't work? "You People" I take issue with that. I am not, have never and will never be a breeder of dogs. I did not choose to own a pitbull type dog because it was cool, it looked tough or to guard my stash of drugs. I thought about purchasing a lab from a breeder but decided that there are too many unwanted dogs in shelters and I would save a life. I knew I wanted a medium sized short haired dog. Dog fighting is an appalling practice. As for dog parks, I would argue that very few dogs, beyond their puppy years belong at dog parks. They are unsupervised off leash messes most of the time the owner of the dog is on the other side of the park chatting and not watching their dog.
Paradis November 08, 2012 at 07:19 PM
@Matt; I told you who it is and how it operates. Good job offering FACTS and education, but the person needs professional help dealing with her imaginary devil dog obsession. New days, new names, same method, same bull. Ms.Know-it-All actually knows nothing at all. She's not an animal behaviorist or expert, just an obsessed manipulator who plagiarizes info and rearranges it for her mission to rid the world of pit bull TYPE dogs.
Matthew Desilets November 09, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Just wanted to point out that Paradis is refering to Debbie Bell before anyone else thinks its directed at them ;P Local resident I do not believe that there are many people here in Woonsocket breeding them to fight I do however believe they are doing so to make a quick buck off selling puppies. If you have the time please visit the "stop woonsocket bsl" page and view my Oct 23rd post about what I think would be safe rules for ALL dog owners. As I have said and many of us have said.. WE DO NOT want back yard breeders to exist here and we do not want thugs using their dogs at mere accessories to there look. The responsible owners of the dog type called "pit bulls" pretty much all agree that something needs to be done but that its something that needs to be addressed across all breeds. Please just take the 5 minutes and read my suggestions that I gave the city council and see for yourself that we are not being unreasonable in saying that BSL just does not work. Also please read up on the Vancouver breed neutral laws and the success they have had there. Together we can come up with something like those and show the rest of RI that we can make things safer without punishing the innocent.
Matthew Desilets November 09, 2012 at 12:33 AM
wow don't know why I just put Vancouver when I meant Calgary... Sorry about that.
Andie November 09, 2012 at 03:19 AM
I can totally appreciate your concern with loose dogs and crappy owners Local Resident. Any legislation passed should address the issue of irresponsible dog ownership, it should include all breeds of dog we should all be safe and not bothered whether or not the dog is friendly or "just a lab" or "just a chihuahua" or a pitbull we should all be able to walk the streets without being approached by loose dogs. Dogs belong as companions with their owners controlled on a leash! They do not belong running loose in neighborhoods and causing a nuisance to the community.
Jeanne Hill November 09, 2012 at 02:55 PM
It is true that many terrier breds are aggressive toward small animals. Yet most of the larger terrier breeds are not easily available to anyone who wants one....try finding a purebred Airedale at a shelter. There are not large numbers of bybers breeding Airdales and selecting for aggressive temperaments, flooding communities and shelters with unstable dogs. There ARE large numbers of bybers breeding pit bulls and selecting for aggresive temperaments. The issue is breed stewardship, which doesn't exist amongst pit bull fanciers....owners and breeders and rescues which adopt them out. I believe in strong, non-breed specific dangerous dog laws which would apply to any dog that menaces or attacks people or other animals. But when a community finds that pit bulls are causing most of the problems, this needs to be addressed. Punishing owners after an attack with a fine won't help victims of pit bull attacks.I believe a good compromise law would not require banning or muzzling, but mandatory s/n, microchipping, and insurance. Take the financial incentive away from the criminals and thugs who are breeding them for cash. Require microchipping to help humane officers track owners of abused and abandoned pit bulls, and also identify owners of dogs involved in attacks. Require insurance coverage to help keep these dogs in the hands of responsible adults, not teenagers, or young, transient, irresponsible owners, and provide recourse for the victims of attacks.
Jeanne Hill November 09, 2012 at 03:17 PM
I would also suggest that owners of pit bull type dogs, who declare themselves "responsible", try to educate other owners as to what responsible ownership looks like. The pit bull attacks in my suburb are not generally the result of thugs or criminals using the dogs as weapons, but are the result of ignorant, naive suburbanites who believe that "its all how you raise them", and ignore their dogs genetic heritage. Most serious attacks have been on other dogs, but a few have involved people. All would have been prevented if the pit bull owners had recognized the potential danger their dogs pose to other dogs and made sure they were ALWAYS kept on a leash and only walked by an adult strong enough to handle them; ALWAYS contained in a securely fenced yard, (a 4 ft. fence will, NOT contain your pit bull!) and supervised when outside, NEVER taken to a dog park; and their handlers ALWAYS carry, and know how to use, a break stick. I had the great misfortune of witnessing, many years ago, a pit bull kill another dog in a completely unprovoked attack. The pit bull gave no warning... no signal, or growl or body posture before it latched onto the other dogs throat. The victim's dog screamed and flailed trying to escape. It took two adult men beating the pit bull unconscious to get it to release the other dog, whose throat was crushed. As a dog lover, it was the most violent, traumatic thing I have ever seen. It's why I believe pit bull ownership and breeding needs to be regulated.
English first November 09, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Andie and Paradis, I have to admit I did not approach and knock on the door of the house after hearing the dog barking.it was very loud and scary. Perhaps I did bring a lot of fear about the dog. But I knew that there are people out there who don't teach their dogs well and that dog behind that door might have been one of them. How is someone supposed to know the difference without knowing the dog or the owner? So I avoid big, loud dogs. That being said. the only time I ever got a dog bite was at the Lincoln Animal Shelter and that was from a very small dog. It was loose in the office area and belonged to one of the volunteers. I was looking to adopt a cat.
Paradis November 09, 2012 at 06:45 PM
It's ok, English. It's better to use caution if you're uncertain. My male dog has a loud bark that sounds like he is a huge dog, but he likes people. I have my dogs go lay in place on their mat or put them in another room depending on who is at my door. Some people are afraid of dogs, some don't like dogs and some are allergic to them. Just so you know, some of us pit bull owners do engage in charity work and good deeds in the community. Do you ever post your charity?
Paradis November 09, 2012 at 06:58 PM
English, I'm glad you went to a shelter to adopt a cat so many of them need new homes. It's awful that you got hurt though.
Local Resident November 09, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Perhaps I am wrong about breeding to be fighters, but I do know there are many apt breeders. I can see where it would be about money and not so much for dog fights. Is it not true that if you live in Woonsocket you are only allowed 1 dog per unit? What would you say if the dog police saw three dogs plus a new litter of puppies and did nothing???? I am not against pitbulls, but I am against people who abuse the breeding(in-breeding).
Pitlover November 11, 2012 at 12:44 AM
I follow the comments on many of the articles regarding hot-button issues on the Woonsocket Patch and this issue has got to beat all the others in the quantity and quality of the comments. I attended the meeting on Nov. 5th and spoke in opposition to the ban. It's unfortunate that there are people out there that think that bully breeds should be irradicated from the face of the earth because they can be such loving dogs with the right owners. These dogs are not for everyone, but for people that have them, I'm sure they will agree that they are very lovable companions.
Jaloney Caldwell November 12, 2012 at 06:08 AM
Well said Debbie. It is high times politicans look at areas like Miami Dade florida that have enjoyed MAUL free living for decades because of their ban. The leaders need to look at all the noise out of the area advocates made in Florida and how the locals trumped the celebrities and loud pitbull advocates by a 2 to 1 margin. People who care about others are in the majority. They need to ask for I.D. at meetings and ignore the pitbull groupies and advocacy groups from out of the area.
Jaloney Caldwell November 12, 2012 at 06:13 AM
Wonderful dogs that are responsible for removing a humans body part permanenetly every 4 days now. No other dog breed has that horrific stat and post people do not want anyone to be subject to the loss of a leg or an eye or as in the case of a Hot Springs Arkansas young boy recently their testicals to a pitbull attack. It is in the best interests of everyone for people to look at these victims and stop taking in pitbulls as pets. It is family raised and unabused pitbulls that suddenly attack .. often times it is family members that are attacked, too. Blame the actions on the human who keeps trying to make a dog raised for evil into a pet. Then you play defend and deny because dog fighters support rescues and organizations that defend the breed as areas flooded with pitbulls make engaging in dog fighting without any risk of getting caught very easy. Ban the breed, don't accept the deed and THINK ABOUT THE VICTIMS. Think about them every day.. don't minimize and deny them as they are animals too and they are suffering horribly.
Jaloney Caldwell November 12, 2012 at 06:17 AM
No you can't make any dog as dangerous and tenacious and deadly as pitbulls. Mortality, Mauling and Maiming by Vicious Dogs, conducted by Phd's reviewed dog attacks in hospitals for the past 15 years and found that you have a more than 2500 times higher chance of dying if attacked by a pitbull instead of a Lab.They also found that it is family raised and unabused that suddenly turn on a dime and attack. Pitbulls attack owners 6 times more than other breeds and laws that ban a breed always grandfather in currenlty owned pitbulls so they can be kept, but bans keep the dogs from being over bred and euthanized so often as the majority of pitbulls are brought into shelters voluntarily by uncommitted owners. PETA supports pitbull bans as it is more humane for pitbulls to eliminate dog fighting and the millions of euthanizations due to overbreeding.
Jaloney Caldwell November 12, 2012 at 06:21 AM
Pitbulls do not get into the scraps that Airedale's do. Pitbulls more often kill the animal they attack and they should not be put on a pedestal above other dogs. And the human victims of pitbulls look like bombing vcitms for life. Anybody ever want to talk about them? I personally known any dog can get loose. Accidents happen so I believe the responsible thing is to choose a breed that can do little damage to others if it gets loose. Airedales and pitbulls do not maul and kill at the same rate. Lets compare apples to apples.
Matthew Desilets November 12, 2012 at 08:57 PM
http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/blog/miami-dade-pit-bull-ban-remains-despite-overwhelming-evidence-of-failure-and-county-officials-view/ read it and understand the truth jaloney caldwell also please read the list of refrences they used for the article and and actually do some research other than public blogs and websites that do not base their information on fact and use speculation and false rumors. While it is true Miami has not had any dog fatalities they have had maulings by multiple breeds and therefore have not led maul free lives for decades as you have stated. As far as pit bull advocacy groups being involved in the Woonsocket hearings it has been limited and mostly consisting of local people such as myself or others who have friends and family involved. The only non Woonsocket group involved to my knowledge is the Defenders of animals who are a group of lawyers and advocates for ALL animals and are not as you put it "pitbull groupies" Looking at your long list of post on the issue across the US editions of patch I will also ask you to leave it to the LOCAL people involved and stop fear mongering and stirring the pot.
Matthew Desilets November 12, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Jaloney Caldwell please provide your source for the "studies" done because all I am seeing are numbers that seem to smell a bit funny to me.
Matthew Desilets November 12, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Jaloney Caldwell It is my American right to choose to own whatever dog type I want as long as I properly train and handle it. According to the ATTS Airdale Terriers scored a 77.7 on the temperament test and as far as apples for apples go these dogs both have similar sizes and are also known for being somewhat more dog aggressive without the proper training.
Matthew Desilets November 12, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Jaloney Caldwell you are basically saying that if its not a Pitbull its ok for them to attack kill and maim children. by your own words 4 people per day are involved in a Pitbull attack.. so lets talk about the other 1004 dog bites that require medical attention that also happen every day. We are not asking for lax laws here we want strong laws that include ALL dogs and protect ALL people. I do not know where you got the number 4 from but my number of 1008 comes from the following: Dog bites send nearly 368,000 victims to hospital emergency departments per year (1,008 per day). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nonfatal Dog Bite–Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments — United States, 2001
Andie November 13, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Jaloney Caldwell, Miami Dade despite it's ban on pitbulls spanning several decades is not a pit bull free county, you'd think if this legislation was effective it would be, the problem with curbing dog bites is with the owners of dogs, all dogs. Legislation that is effective in preventing dog bites includes all breeds of dogs. As for your impression of Miami Dade, a quick google search for Pitbull Miami turns up recent results one as recent as September of this year, something you'd think if this ban was effective would not happen particularly if no pitbulls have been allowed in the area in 23 years.
Local Resident November 17, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Pitlover, that is true.....so should we just leave it alone and continue letting people basically abuse the breed? I so agree that a pit can be loveable. But truly something does need to be done. It should be hardier for a person to breed not matter what the bred unless they have a permit to be a bredder.


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