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.