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OH: Sunbury no longer is enforcing its controversial vicious-dog ordinance


Posted Sep 7, 2017 at 6:05 PM

Thanks to a decision by an Ohio court of appeals, the village of Sunbury no longer is enforcing its controversial vicious-dog ordinance.

The village had been operating under a 1991 ordinance that banned pit bulls and labeled any dog that bites “without provocation” as a vicious dog, requiring it to be confined to a “pen/enclosure/house” or “tethered to a stake.”

Thanks to a lawsuit against the city of Reynoldsburg, however, the ordinance no longer is being enforced, said Village Administrator Allen Rothermel.

In Sunbury, the most vocal opponents of the village’s ordinance were part of a group called Breed Neutral for Sunbury.

Rachelle Pace-Bowen led the charge, organizing the group and gathering an estimated 75 people to ask for a change at an April 19 meeting of Village Council.
A closer look

THE ISSUE: A 1991 ordinance in Sunbury banned pit bulls and labeled some other dogs as "vicious," requiring confinement or tethering.

WHY IT MATTERS: After a movement by Sunbury residents, and based on a court decision in Licking County, village officials no longer are enforcing the ordinance and are in the process of removing it from the books.

A veterinary technician, Pace-Bowen said she was made aware of Sunbury’s ordinance after she fell in love with a pit bull named Moxie at work.

She said she wanted the law to be changed and was thrilled with how many people joined her efforts.

″(Village Council) saw that it wasn’t just me, it was other people and that dogs had actually been taken away from people’s homes and things like that,” she said.

“It was kind of emotionally charged, but it went really well.”

At the time, village officials said their legal representatives were “doing due diligence” on the issue and had not made a decision.

But earlier the same day, the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Licking County struck down a similar ordinance, ruling that, “under Ohio law, Ohio residents may keep or own any dog they choose,” as long as they adhere to other state laws.

When Pace-Bowen emailed the village about the issue in August, she got a reply that said the village no longer was enforcing the ordinance. She said she felt a huge sense of relief, along with a fair bit of pride.

“I feel accomplished,” she said. “I feel like I did something.”

She said she knows “five or six” pit bulls on her street alone, and added she is happy her friends and neighbors will be able to stop worrying about the ordinance.

“Now they can walk their dogs and not have to worry about it,” she said.

Rothermel said the village is in the process of altering or ending the ordinance officially, but the process wasn’t far enough along for action during council’s Sept. 6 meeting. He added he hopes there isn’t too much delay, given the Reynoldsburg ruling.

“Personally, I think it needs to happen sooner rather than later,” he said.