Still no word from Chafee on 'pit bull' legislation

Still no word from Chafee on 'pit bull' legislation

City officials plead for veto; say they may not have to comply

PAWTUCKET - Gov. Lincoln Chafee was still not providing any clues this week on whether he'll veto the Rhode Island General Assembly's new ban on ordinances prohibiting certain breeds of dogs.

City officials have lambasted the bill, which was proposed by Providence state Rep. Thomas Palangio and state Sens. Frank Ciccone and Dominick Ruggerio, both of North Providence. Pawtucket's General Assembly delegation has said it would overturn a local ban on pit bulls that has proven very effective since it went into effect back in 2004.

Representatives for Chafee's office said that the governor has not indicated his feelings one way or another on the bill, which was sent to him for a final signature on July 12.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, who had Chafee speak at his 2011 inauguration and has remained closely aligned with the governor, sent a joint letter with City Council President David Moran to the governor asking that he reject the measure.

"We certainly respect and appreciate the love of pit bulls and all dogs by the supporters of the bill," states the July 10 letter. "However, as public officials, we must do what is necessary to protect the health and welfare of the two- and four-legged residents of our city."

While they agree that some pit bulls can make good pets, said Moran and Grebien, "the number and severity of pit bull attacks against people and other animals in the early 2000s required us to take the action we did."

Prior to the 2004 city ordinance, Pawtucket Animal Control officers responded to many calls about serious pit bull attacks against people and animals, according to the letter. Two of the worst cases involved a nine-month pregnant woman and a child.

"While many of these attacks were caused by pit bulls escaping from their owners' control, other attacks were the result of drug dealers using pit bulls to attack police officers during drug raids," said the two Pawtucket leaders.

While proponents of the bill argue that breed-specific bans don't work, said Grebien and Moran, "the results in Pawtucket dramatically prove that they do work."

In 2003, the year before the local ban on pit bulls went into effect, 135 pit bulls, all from Pawtucket, were taken in at the Pawtucket Animal Control Shelter for a variety of health and safety reasons, with 48 of those dogs needing to be put down.

In 2012, 72 pit bulls were taken in, only 41 from Pawtucket, with only six needing to be euthanized, according to the two officials.

"That's a tremendous improvement," they state in their letter.

It is the responsibility of local government to oversee animal control and to ensure the public safety of local residents, according to the letter. "To accomplish this may require different regulations in crowded, urban centers with little or no spaces in which dogs may run around compared to less crowded rural areas with plenty of open spaces for dogs to enjoy," it reads.

Since Pawtucket's ordinances were already in place prior to passage of the 2013 bill, which appears to only prohibit future breed-specific ordinances, "we do not necessarily believe that the legislation will prevent us from enforcing our ban on pit bulls," said Moran and Grebien. "Regardless, for the reasons stated above, we strongly oppose passage of this legislation and ask that you veto this bill when it comes before you."