With talk of Ohio banning pit bulls statewide, pit bull owners to the south are worried their pups may be banned next.

Most Northern Kentucky cities welcome the breed, however, Falmouth has a ban and another city may soon.

Covington City Commissioner Steve Megerle, who is on the city public safety committee, said he will suggest a ban on pit bulls for his city. The city already has regulations on the dog.

“Based on the recent incident in Cincinnati, I would request an outright ban on the vicious dog pit bulls in the city,” said Megerle.

A “vicious dog,” according to a city ordinance, is either a pit bull, wolf-hybrid or “…any dog that has caused death or serious injury to a person engaged in a lawful activity or has attached or bitten without provocation a person engaged in lawful activity.”

Covington does not ban them outright at this point. Instead, the city requires such dogs to be specifically licensed, said Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders.

“The cost of the insurance policy makes legally owning a pit bull nearly impossible for most people,” he said.

As it stands, Covington residents who own or want to own a “vicious dog” such as a pit bull, have to register, insure, vaccinate, spay/neuter, photograph, microchip, muzzle, leash, confine, place signage at their home and allow animal control to inspect their property at any given time.

The 1999 ordinance regulating dog ownership has been revised several times although regulations on “keeping and maintaining dogs” in Covington were originally passed in 1964. They were updated as recently as 2005.

In 2003, the ordinance’s language was modified to specify “vicious breeds” as pit bulls and wolf-hybrids.

“We had a couple of people bitten by pit bulls, a little boy bitten in the face, several bits of children in the area,” Covington Mayor Butch Callery said as he explained why the city toughened the original ordinance. “The leash law wasn’t enough.”

But it was a set of rules and regulations that were set into motion for another reason too: the safety of dogs themselves.

“It was for protection for the public and for dogs [against dog fighting],” said the mayor.

In fact, after the last update to Covington’s regulations, many pit bull owners, who were facilitating dog fighting behind the floodwall, said Callery, just let their dogs go.

Nearly 38 pit bulls were picked up and taken to the animal shelter, where they were either adopted or put to sleep.

Not everyone in Covington, including the mayor, sees the need for an altogether ban.

“It’s worked pretty well over the years,” said Callery, who does not support a citywide ban on pit bulls. He said how pit bulls behave has more to do with the owners than the breed. “If dogs are treated correctly they have no problems.”

Pit bull owner Burt Tienken of Florence also said it’s more about the owner than the dog and how they train them.

“They want love and attention and will do anything that their owners train them to do, unfortunately there are certain elements of society who think that training a dog to fight or teaching it to be aggressive is some kind of ‘badge of honor.’”

The city, however, considered an outright ban when the ordinance was updated a few years ago.

“The City Commission decided to go with the beefed-up registration route instead. We talked with several pit bull owners who had the dogs as family pets and were not causing problems and they encouraged us not to impose an outright ban. The changes we made in the ordinance seems to have addressed many of the 'problem' pit bulls we previously had, so I don't see any reason to change at this point in time,” said Covington City Manager Jay Fossett.

Advocates for the breed agree with the mayor and city manager.

“I think what most people don't realize about pit bulls is that they are just like any other dog. Unfortunately it's bad owners who turn them into fighters. They are very intelligent and trainable,” said Tienken, who considers his 2-year-old, high-energy pit bull Belle, part of the family.

In Florence, unlike Covington, there are no breed specific regulations on pit bulls and their owners. Tienken said there is good reason, at least in the case of his pup, who he brags is an “amazing Disc Dog” winning four medals in competitions.

“She's a big baby. We own two other dogs, a retriever mix and a beagle mix. If there is a disagreement amongst the dogs she is the first one to roll over on her back and submit. She loves to cuddle and sleeps in the bed with us at night,” he said of Belle, who they adopted when she was 6 weeks old.

His family isn’t ready to give up their pup if a ban were imposed in his city.

“I would fight a breed ban with everything I have because they don't work. It's not the breed that is at fault, it's bad owners and criminals,” said Tienken.

“There is a saying in the pit bull community, ‘Ban the Deed, not the Breed.’ Would I move if there was a ban, no. I dare someone to look my wife and kids in the face and say they are going to take our puppy away,” said Tienken.

But a ban may be in the near future for at least one more Northern Kentucky city.

Covington’s city public safety committee met Friday, when Megerle said he would put his ban on the city's agenda.

Cost Of A Covington Pit Bull

-Annual registration/license fee $30
-Spay/Neuter $84.58 to $160.06
-Signage/muzzle/leash $50
-Vaccinations $100*
-Mirco-chipping $76.49
-Insurance $400/annually with a $1,000 deductible, for a $100,000 homeowner’s insurance policy on a $150,000 home in Covington, Ky., according to Statefarm Insurance.

*Breakdown of Vaccines’ cost:
Annual Preventative Vaccines and Testing fees Basic Physical Exam: $25.95
Distemper Vaccine: $ 9.75
Parvovirus Vaccine: $ 9.75
Rabies Vaccine: $11.25
Heartworm Test: $21.64
Stool Sample Check: $ 9.70
= $100

Vaccines/spay/neuter/chipping prices according to Highlands Animal Hospital in Highlands Height, Ky.
Ordinance Consequences-

First Offense*:
-cl$#@! B misdemeanor
-fined no more than $250
-imprisoned no more than 90 days or both

Second, Thereafter Offense(s)*:
-cl$#@! A misdemeanor
-fined no more than $500
-imprisoned for no more than one year or both
*Each dog is a separate offense.
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