LIMA — The Lima City Safety Committee decided on Monday it will hold a public hearing March 3 to consider what to do with the city’s vicious dog ordinance after an appellate court invalidated the law.
The 3rd Ohio District Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling Dec. 23, effectively declaring provisions of the law unconstitutional. The case went to the appellate court after Lima resident Theodore T. Stepleton, 25, of 410 S. Jameson Ave., pleaded no contest to violating the ordinance April 30 and immediately appealed a magistrate’s decision in Lima Municipal Court. In the case, Stepleton was found guilty of having an unconfined vicious dog on the premises. The dog was a pit bull.
The safety committee briefly reviewed its options and scheduled the public hearing to get feedback from residents and law enforcement personnel to see what direction the city will go.
Committee member Sam McLean said the council has visited the issue several times in the past. He said his concern was reaching a decision that was favorable to everyone involved.
“You are getting involved with people’s pets,” McLean said. “You are tugging at heartstrings.
McLean, along with councilors Derry Glenn and Todd Gordon, the other committee members, were in agreement that they did not think an outright ban was in the best interests of the public. However, they agreed that something needed to be put in place so law enforcement can protect the public.
“We need something they are going to be able to enforce,” McLean said. “If they can’t enforce it, there is no reason to do anything.”
Speaking on behalf of the Lima Police Department, officer Ronald Holman said something was needed as history linked ownership of the animals with crime.
“I am not going to imply that everyone that owns a pit bull is a criminal,” Holman said, “but there is a definite correlation between narcotics and pit bull ownership. It is often a status symbol, and they are often trained to protect their owners’ criminal activities.”
Holman briefly described three separate events where the LPD dealt with criminal activity with pit bulls involved in the last seven years. In two cases, marijuana was found on the premises and in another a stun gun was used on the animal but had no effect.
The committee ruled out appealing the court’s decision.
“It would be 2015 or 2016 before we could even get it all through,” Lima Law Director Tony Geiger said.
Geiger said he plans to further review what the possible choices are for the council in passing legislation without encountering another problem. Geiger said the city will be forced to enforce vicious dog problems under the Ohio Revised Code until the council reaches a decision.