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NJ: Newark closer to changing vicious dog rules


Maria DeVito, Reporter 8:21 a.m. EDT March 15, 2016

NEWARK- Newark's pit bulls are one step closer to losing their automatic status as vicious dogs.

The Newark City Council Safety Committee passed an ordinance Monday night that would classify dogs as nuisance, dangerous or vicious based on only behavior and not breed. A dog would be labeled as vicious only if it killed or caused serious injury to a person without provocation.

Currently, all pit bulls are designated as vicious and can only have the status removed if they have formal training and pass a good citizenship test.

Jeff Rath, R-3rd Ward, is sponsoring the legislation, and he said it puts every dog on a fair and level playing field.

"My goal isn't to minimize the number of dogs labeled as vicious; my goal is to minimize the number of dogs in Newark that are vicious based on their nature," Rath said.

A current city ordinance mandates vicious dog owners buy liability insurance and special dog tags; put microchips in the animals; muzzle them in public; and restrain them by chain-link tether, fence or enclosure.

Law Director Doug Sassen said those requirements for vicious dogs would not change under the new ordinance.

Dogs would be labeled as nuisance dogs if, without being provoked, they approach a person in a menacing fashion or attempt to bite or endanger a person. Dogs would earn a dangerous designation if, without being provoked, they cause injury to a person, kill a dog or are found to have been running at large three or more times. Police dogs would be exempt from being labeled as any of designations if they exhibit those behaviors while on duty.

If a dog attacks someone who is breaking into its owner's house, it would be exempt from the vicious designation, but it could still be classified as dangerous if the dog injures the person.

The legislation also would put in place stricter penalties for owners of dogs who are running at large or who haven't been controlled by their owner based on whether the dog is designated as nuisance dog, dangerous dog, vicious dog or does not have any designation.

Penalties would include fines that would vary based on the dog's designation and the number of offenses it has. If they dog kills a person, the owner could face a fourth-degree felony and the court will order that the dog be euthanized.

The ordinance goes to the full council next week, but the earliest it can be voted on is at the April 4 meeting.

Monday night's committee meetings ended with Newark Mayor Jeff Hall and Heath Mayor Mark Johns visited the Economic Development Committee to talk about a proposal that would connect Cherry Valley Road and Thornwood Drive directly to the new Ohio 16 interchange with a new road called Thornwood Crossing.