Pawtucket Animal Control Officer Says Pitbull Ordinance Will Protect Dogs, Owners

Woonsocket Animal Control Officer says just talk about the law has improved situation in city.


Enforcing a pitbull ordinance like Pawtucket's will require money Woonsocket doesn't have and General Assembly approval, but police and animal control officials said it would be a step in the right direction. 

From the start of Monday night's City Council work session on a proposed pitbull ordinance taken from Pawtucket's, that city's Animal Control Officer John Holmes said that while other dogs bite, it's the pitbulls that are the problem in his city.

"You're always going to get your dog bites," Holmes said, "But it's the bite of the pitbull. It really is."

Woonsocket Police Captain Michael Lemoine said it was the same in Woonsocket. "This is the breed that causes the city and the police the most problems," Lemoine said.

Lemoine said that although there isn't enough money to hire the number of staffers Pawtucket has, "I think it's enforceable. As long as we're committed, it'll just take a little more time," he said.

Woonsocket Police Chief Thomas Carey agreed. "There's a problem and we need to get something in place to solve it," he said. Having the law in place will help by itself, he said.

Woonsocket Animal Control Officer Doris Kay also agreed, noting there are people flocking to city hall to register their dogs since word of the proposed law started circulating.

The most serious dog attacks, including one suffered by Kay, involve pitbulls. 

"We're not having a major problem with rottweilers," said Kay. "It's always the pitbull, pitbull, pitbull."

She said right now, the city pound has 13 cages, and nine of them have pitbulls in them. There are so many pitbulls taken in by the pound from irresponsible owners, she said that they haven't got resources left to care for regular strays.

Outside City Hall, about 20 people, including families and children, stood on the sidewalk holding signs proclaiming, "We love our family pets," and "They are our family" for drivers of passing cars to see. Several drivers honked as they passed, the sound carrying to the second floor conference room where the working session was held.

City Councilman Roger Jalette seemed to be in the demonstrators' corner. "I think it is wrong for us to use the Pawtucket legislation to put out breed-specific legislation," Jalette said.

But, Mayor Leo Fontaine said, "I saw the police reports and I heard at the time on the radio what was going on when she (Kay) was attacked," which gave her an out to leave, he said. "But she came back."

"I am not against pitbulls," Kay said, "Even though I've been bit, I love dogs." But, she said, "It's getting dangerous."

Fontaine said that though there are many responsible pitbull owners in the city, irresponsible owners, including some people the police visit often, are not treating the dogs well and training them to be violent, which puts officers in jeopardy. "It's a dangerous situation," Fontaine said, when a single officer responds to a call and finds himself surrounded by pitbulls.

The pound isn't full of akidos right now. It's not full of shepherds. It's not full of labs," Fontaine said.

City Councilman Bob Moreau, a Woonsocket Policeman for 23 years, agreed. "I have never gone to any other dog bite call," except for pitbulls, Moreau said. He said on one of his last days as an officer, "I witnessed a pitbull literally tearing a seeing eye dog apart," while the blind man with the dog was forced to stand by as good Samaritans came to his dog's aid, striking the pitbull several times to stop the attack. "That dog would not let go," Moreau said, "It was one of the worst things I've seen as a police officer." He said he's never been on a call for any other breed of dog in more than two decades.

Holmes said that since Pawtucket's pitbull-specific legislation was passed, the number of pitbulls in their pound has decreased. "We were euthanizing 15 pitbulls a week," he said. With the pitbull law, he said, they've only taken custody of 84 pitbulls since January, and only had to euthanize three of those.

The law cuts down on irresponsible pitbull ownership, he said, because it encourages them to spay and neuter the dogs, which reduces their numbers, and keeps people who just want to breed and use the dogs irresponsibly out of Pawtucket. He said with the law, people who own pitbulls just to breed and sell them as attack dogs don't stay in the city.

The law also provides for fines as high as $1,000, though most are between $25 and $50, he said. Fines higher than $500 did require General Assembly approval, he said.

But, he said, his department enforces it with about eight staffers to Woonsocket's two, and the judges in the city back them up. "Don't put the law in, if you're not going to enforce it," Holmes said.

"People can walk down the streets of Pawtucket and not worry about being attacked," Holmes said.

City Council President John Ward said the proposed ordinance will require changes to fit Woonsocket's needs. Also, he pointed out that if they followed Pawtucket's lead, the city would need the approval of the General Assembly.

The ordinance, introduced for the first time last Monday night 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). 

Moreau suggested formally inviting the city's General Assembly representatives, which Ward said was a good idea. 

After the meeting, Harry Parker, owner of Dynamic Dog Training in Warwick and an opponent of the ordinance, who was sporting a photo of "his kids and their pitbull, said he wasn't swayed by anything said at the meeting. "No. Not at all. Not at all. Breed specific legislation is wrong." 

Another opponent of the proposed ordinance, Matther Desilets, had a poster he used to demonstrate the difficulty of identifying pitbulls without DNA testing. 

Kay said if a pitbull owner runs afoul of the law, the owner will be given an opportunity to prove their dog isn't really a pitbull. She said that any dog could be subject to the city's vicious dog law, but that is triggered by an attack. "This is a pre-emptive strike," she said, to regulate pitbulls to prevent them from attacking people.

The next meeting on the issue will be a public forum Nov. 5. 

Paradis October 23, 2012 at 02:31 PM
One more, sorry, Doris Kay doesn't fine unless the dog bites; my sentence indicates that she doesn't fine unless the owner bites. Ah,the woes of insomnia.
Gonetothe dogs October 23, 2012 at 03:42 PM
My neighbor has a 2 yr old pitbull who is very well behaved, BUT not neutered. When I asked him if he was going to neuter his dog, his response was, "Some day, but my brother wants a pup, so I am going to stud him out first so I can get a pup for my brother" Are you kidding me??? There are so many pit puppies on Craigslist that it is down right sad, not to mention that every shelter in the state is overwhelmed with these dogs and most get put down. His brother can't do the right thing and rescue a dog already born? Uneducated owners is why there is a problem, not the dogs!
Andie October 23, 2012 at 03:57 PM
"People can walk down the streets of Pawtucket and not worry about being attacked," Holmes said. There are streets I won't walk down here in our city, and it's not because I am afraid of dogs.
B October 23, 2012 at 03:57 PM
What about the three separate dog attacks (Two that were supposedly 'pit bulls') that happened in Pawtucket last year within two weeks of each other? Did their ban prevent those because I'm pretty sure the irresponsible owner just wandered around being irresponsible - as in, NOT CARING about the laws put in place. Banning a dog doesn't make it "Safe" for me to walk down the street. Pushing responsible ownership, training and veterinary care for ALL dogs does. But woonsocket and the police department won't push for that, because that doesn't give them any more power.
MAE October 23, 2012 at 05:08 PM
This note is to John Ward, who snuck in the back door last night rather than approach some concerned dog owning taxpayers and citizens of Woonsocket. This rebuke to your ordinance is not so much about the Pitbulls (or properly, the AKC recognized breed: the American Staffordshire Terrier) of our city but of the punishment you impose on the responsible pet owners in general and the infringement on our right to choose and fair distribution of the law. Perhaps, rather than being an unimaginative copy cat (which frankly is a lazy form of leadership) you could step up to the plate and be an innovative model for others to emulate! There are ways around this problem that could actually generate money and solve the problem but you'd have to put some effort into it. I have some suggestions that might get you thinking. First make a list which includes what a responsible pet owner does, ie vet, shots, exercising, training, controlling, socializing, licensing to name most. Now, you can check the police records and records from ACO to find what problems there are with dogs in general in the city...aggressive animals, too many in house or apartment, not licensed, shots (rabies, distemper) owners negative involvement with law enforcement including animal control, nuisance and abuse complaints. You know, they way DCYF does with kids.
MAE October 23, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Now you can put into place an ordinance which requires that dogs be neutered/spayed and if the owner chooses not to for breeding or beliefs they can get a breeder license for an added $15. Have would be dog owners provide a BCI check and those with violent records or drug records not be allowed to have a dog. The only discrimination there is their police record which is too bad for them, don't break the law! If the police have to raid a house with dogs, come prepared with traquilizers and remove illegal dogs to a humane shelter that can give the dog a proper home. I am sorry but, it is the job of the police to deal with this type of danger, they get paid for it so deal with it.
MAE October 23, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Next, have properly trained animal control officers that do their job. I rarely see the ACO van patrolling the city and I am out and about most days. The ACO pickup is usually at places of business, not residences. There have been comments that they don't even go out after rabid wildlife.Why are there no exercise pens at the animal shelter? Why are volunteers not allowed and don't give me the liability BS. You can have teens and adults doing community service for HS credit or court ordered for arrests. There are so many who would do it just because it's the right thing to do. Then your ACO's can be out enforcing the laws and actually doing their jobs.
MAE October 23, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Perhaps the city could offer dog training classes and obedience training or offer a discounted licensing for properly schooled dogs. Muzzling good dogs only teaches bad behavior, confining dogs only promotes bad behavior. If these folks, including yourself, knew about animal behavior you wouldn't even make these suggestions. You'd be learned in how to properly care and teach animals, specifically dogs, and thus you'd promote a fair and equable ordinance that truly did address the issues instead of this ridiculous knee jerk reaction to someones irresponsible behavior toward a dog. Be a leader and lead...don't follow or we'll put you on a leash with a muzzle..
Matthew Desilets October 23, 2012 at 05:17 PM
B if you recall the dates of those attacks and the information behind them can you please email them to stopbslwoon@gmail.com or post it to "stop woonsocket bsl" on facebook? I would love to bring that information to the next city council public hearing.
Gonetothe dogs October 23, 2012 at 06:50 PM
MAE! You are right on target! If you cannot afford to have your pet spayed or neutered, up to date on vaccines and licensed then you have no business having a pet. Before anyone gets a dog they need to research the breed. I would pay to see Mr Ward leashed and muzzled!!!!
Job Seeker October 23, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I agree with Pitbull Owner
Job Seeker October 23, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I had two dogs in the City of Woonsocket - one a full bred pit and the other was a poodle...guess which one was the family pet and cuddler to my children and guess which one was the aggressive one.....the Poodle took on a german shepard and a doberman and won both fights....Pitbulls get a bad rap...it's not the dog its the owner ...
Lynn B October 23, 2012 at 11:34 PM
The city counsel & police ect are trying to pass laws to protect the people of Woonsocket from dangerous pitbulls,and the people are trying to stop them? Whats wrong with the people in this city? If they want to live dangerous,just remember to tell your pitbulls to bite their owners,not innocent people.Peoples safety comes before any animal. Are we suppose to wait until some innocent child gets mauled to death by pitbulls before we pass rules?If i was a dog officer i would tell the ones who claim their pitbulls are harmless ,to remember not to call a dog officer if they ever bite you. Since you chose to adopt that breed,and knew the risk. Hoping the city counsel ,and police ect pass their rules against pitbulls .Safety of people comes first.And those laws against pitbulls is way way overdue.They should have done this over 10 years ago.
Andie October 24, 2012 at 03:28 AM
This is right on the mark, all of your posts here really.
Elizabeth Irish October 24, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Don't obfuscate the issue: it's about Pit Bull types who attack and maim. ALL PBs have this genetic predisposition to aggressiveness. SOME may live all their lives without it happening but perfect PETS have gone and attacked and killed. In the past 2 months 10 adults have been killed. 7 of those were killed by their OWN 'pets' and of those 7, FOUR (4) were RESCUERS. BSLs don't work because there is NO such thing as a 'purebred' PitBull. They are CONSTANTLY being out bred to make them stronger, bigger, more aggressive and some are 'leaked' into the general population. All dogs bite, but PBs inflict the most damages, cost the most, have the highest proportion of irresponsible owners who refuse or can not pay the damages their CHOICE of dog make. Often victims are forced into bankruptcy by the accumulation of medical bills and the PB owner 'disappears' or is quick to file bankruptcy. Better that dog attacks are exempt from bankruptcy protection. PB owners usually have to be taken to court when the victim is another animal. PB owners whine and complain they are persecuted, but why don't they come up with some equitable solutions to the problem. IF YOU ARE NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION YOU ARE (DECIDEDLY) PART OF THE PROBLEM!!
Elizabeth Irish October 24, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Why can't they come up with the solution? An obvious choice is requiring spay and neuter over 9 months or 1 year. Manditory insurance for all. The insurance companies and their actuarial and risk depts. would quickly discover which breeds are the most risky and which ones, like greyhounds, are the least risk and charge premiums accordingly. If someone CHOOSES a risky dog like a GSD or PB, they pay higher premiums, say with a rebate after a period of time and no claims... and discounts for really secure kennels, not being kept in an apartment, etc. It's parallel to requiring insurance for cars. If you want a Ferrari, you will pay more for insurance. Those who own Ford Escorts pay less.
Elizabeth Irish October 24, 2012 at 12:59 PM
It IS the dogs. You have no idea of the underground breeding that leads to the overpopulation and the outbreeding to make them 'more game'...i.e. more aggressive and vicious. I taught in 'ghetto/barrio' schools and had NO idea this 'world' existed. Those dogs never see a vet... if you get attacked by them, you will have to take rabies protocol treatments. They never spay or neuter...'why spoil their fun?' is the idea...they cull litters to produce only the most aggressive and then breed those.. including forced breeding with bigger more vicious dogs like cane corsos and other breeds you've never heard of. IF PB ATTACKS WERE SEEN AS IT IS... A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE, THE GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES WOULD HAVE THE NATIONAL GUARD SEEKING OUT AND ERADICATING ALL VECTORS OF THIS VIRUS. yet PB apologists winge and snivel that they are persecuted. and when victims complain or go to the media, they get death threats...
Elizabeth Irish October 24, 2012 at 01:03 PM
AmStaffs were the FOUNDATION part of the non-recognized Pit Bull... which is not recognized by anything but 'bastard' UKC which was started for AKC rejects. WHile many PBs look similar to AmStaffs, to the educated there are differences... the PBs have been so mixed with other aggressive dogs that they should NOT be confused with the AKC regognized AmStaffs. Those registered dogs CAN be traced to breeding. The PitBull type of dog can not.
Elizabeth Irish October 24, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Las Vegas has similar laws.. but the 'breeder/kennel' license is $150. You can have up to 4 dogs without being a 'kennel' If you are a rescue, there are forms, regulations and inspections to assure safety of the dogs. And the BCI check isn't something I'd thought of before, but it certainly IS a good idea. What about making PBs and 'enhancement' like using a gun in the commission of a crime as drug dealers and some pimps are using PB type dogs as a weapon/or threat to potential 'customers'. What about insurance? Any dog without insurance could be seized and destroyed within a period giving the owner a chance to get insurance and then redeem the dog. They do that here with cars.... so the legal mechanism and system is already in place.
Elizabeth Irish October 24, 2012 at 01:13 PM
about volunteers in shelters??? last June a teen serving 'community service' time for grafitti was cleaning kennels at the community shelter when he was attacked by a PB and lost part of his arm. How could that be handled?
Elizabeth Irish October 24, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Having worked in rescue 50 years... and 14 bites, but 2 of those were from police dogs when I was demonstrating for civil rights... and I mouthed off to a policeman with a GSD... not a wise idea.... and nine of those were Chihuahuas... 1 by a Cocker with an ear infection, 1 by a litter mate of my Drathaar and 1 by a foster who turned out to have a brain tumour... BUT NONE OF THEM (other than the GSD police dogs) NECESSITATED more than iodine or neosporin and a bandaid. I did have a Cairn who tended to try to bite when groomed (he had skin allergies) so HE got a muzzle when being groomed... He never showed any signs of 'trauma' and still was a love of my life.... don't go anthropomorphizing dogs so much. . Muzzles don't affect the dog and protect the humans and other dogs in situations where this might be demanded.... such as being walked or in a class.
Elizabeth Irish October 24, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Try reading Dr. Stanley Coren's seminal work: WHY WE LOVE THE DOGS WE DO... which goes into the personality traits of people and dogs and why they match... or don't.
Mitch Varieur October 24, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Well said, I agree 100%.
Clay Hund October 24, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Elizabeth, Sounds like you are talking about all dog breeds. obviously you learned from hearsay, and have a major lacking of understanding of canine knowledge, You are a sheep
Matthew Desilets October 24, 2012 at 10:19 PM
To those who refuse to understand that the term pit bull does not mean dangerous dog and that it is not even a breed of dog please research your information on something other than a site set out to destroy all of them. This ordinance does not protect a citizen at all but rather in theory will protect the police force during drug raids... however that THEORY requires that the drug dealers having 10-15 dogs in their house have registered the 10-15 dogs (can only have 1 in an appartment!) so the police will be aware that there will be dogs there. The amount of ignorance on some of your post about Pitbulls and GSD ( which btw are not even included in the ordinance so please read the thing before you talk about it) and Rottweilers is incredible. There are states who use all of these type of dogs especially "Pitbulls" as rescue dogs because they are very good at the job. The American pitbull scores 90.6 % on the temperament test and the remaining 121 other breeds tested averaged 70 % . These dogs are extremely loyal and are driven to please there owners. Sadly, people abuse this aspect of them and use it to train them to act certain ways either for fighting or protecting drug stashes or just to scare people off in general. The term pitbull includes hundreds of mixed breeds that in most cases actually include no DNA at all from the American Pitbull. The fact is that if any dog bites someone that looks like a pitbull its called one. regardless of its actual breed.
Matthew Desilets October 24, 2012 at 10:35 PM
I apologize I found more up to date information on the ATT site my number did place them a bit higher percentage than current day. # tested # passed #failed %passed American Pit Bull Terrier 839 728 111 86.8% American Staffordshire Terrier 646 544 102 84.2% Staffordshire Bull Terrier 124 112 12 90.3% Rottweiler 5545 4,652 893 83.9% vs Golden Retriever 776 661 115 85.2% German Shepherd Dog 3133 2,651 482 84.6% Greyhound 66 54 12 81.8% Labrador Retriever 783 723 60 92.3% This shows that the average pitbull is no more agressive than most dogs please look at the results yourself at http://atts.org/breed-statistics/statistics-page1/
Andie October 25, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Elizabeth, herein lies the problem with ordinances like this, you say right here that AmStaffs should not be included but there are clear differences in temperament to those bred to fight... AmStaffs are included, lumped together with this mismanaged abused line of fighting dogs. As far as this ordinance and ordinances like it are concerned AmStaffs ARE pitbull type dogs
p mcwilliams October 27, 2012 at 08:00 AM
your "facts are screwed up and your remarks show it. you do not have an understanding of the whole picture as it probably hasnt real affected you personally- but is easy to go on about.
p mcwilliams October 27, 2012 at 08:05 AM
good book also "the lost dogs" and " I'm a good dog" by ken foster. both score for the fact that its the person not the dog- these books score how sa many dogs terribly mistreated love being g=family dogs - and are because they are treated right. ANYONE letting their dog run loose should be ARRESTED and fined, hold the dog, big deal- GET THE OWNER. from the sounds of the size of the problem Woonsocket Could make a fair amount of $$ off this- maybe even hire another shelter person. you can head the fight up for resolution or down into the depths never ending always blaming.
Obilix Johannasen February 27, 2013 at 05:15 PM
You have a people problem not a dog breed problem. I'm sure if they could eliminate or ban certain races of people, they would. Create legislation that assures only responsible owners can keep breeds that invoke fear in police and criminals.


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