Tuesday night, August 20th, the Watertown Common Council heard a breed discriminatory ordinance that imposes many restrictions pit bulls. The Council passed the first reading of the proposal.
Under the ordinance “pit bulls” would be declared high risk. This designation carries with it a long list of restrictions. Targeted dogs must be on a leash of 4 feet when not at home, no tethering unless a person 16 years or older is present, if the dog is not inside the home it must be confined to a kennel that has a secure top and bottom, or be buried to a depth of 2 feet, as well as complying with zoning regulations, in home restrictions, warning signs, spay/neuter, with no medical exemption, or exemption for registered show dogs, special registration and a $100,000 liability insurance policy and an owner of a high risk dog is not allowed to own any more than one other dog, or own a High Risk Dog in a unit that houses 3 or more families. The full ordinance can be found in our previous alert on this issue.
The first vote was a narrow one, with the ordinance passing 5-4. The second vote is the final vote for the ordinance. Councilman Berg had made a motion to remove all breed discriminatory language from the ordinance but the motion was defeated with 4 in favor and 5 opposed.
A recent story in the WKOW.com outlines some of the ways this ordinance will affect the community. Local Humane Society volunteer Kristy James says that the shelters do not have the capacity to hold the amount of dogs that will be surrendered. The expected number of surrendered dogs is anywhere from 50 to 200. The Humane Society in Watertown does not have the space and neither do any of the surrounding shelters. With the numerous barriers to adoption this ordinance places on potential homes, few people will take in a targeted dog. The majority will inevitably have to be killed when rescue or re-homing fails.
People with a targeted dog that have more than one other dog will be forced to give up one or more to come into compliance. Owners that have a dog in a multi-family housing unit will be forced to give up their targeted dogs. There are no exceptions, no grandfather clauses. If passed this ordinance will force good law-abiding citizens to give up their dogs.
Reports estimate the showing at the last meeting at around 100 people, with 47 speakers, the majority of which spoke against the ordinance. Of the 9 or so people speaking in favor of the ordinance, only around 4 live in Watertown. This is interesting to note because the point is often made when people oppose these laws, if they do not live in the jurisdiction, that they should have no voice.
A detailed report of the meeting, including comments from the various Council members, can be found here.
Residents and locals: If at all possible, please attend the meeting. It begins at 7PM Tuesday, September 3rd, in the Council chambers at the Municipal Building, 106 Jones Street. Please try to be there early. Anyone and everyone who can attend should.
Take moment to reach out the Common Council to factually and respectfully ask them to oppose this breed discriminatory proposal. Different problems with breed discriminatory laws to outline can be found here.
E-mail addresses for the Aldermen are below, or you can find their phone numbers on the cities website:
Emily McFarland: email@example.com Phone: 920.988.5874 (this member is not on the website because she is a new member.)
Fred Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Berg: email@example.com
Steve Zgnoc: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Coughlin: email@example.com
Augie Tietz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Stocks: email@example.com
James Romlein: jwr@R545.us
Council members Emily McFarland, Ken Berg, John Coughlin and Jim Romlein voted against the restrictions. It would be nice to include a note of thanks for their support.