Pit bull owner to city of Pawtucket: Let's fight

Pit bull owner to city of Pawtucket: Let's fight

Defenders of Animals will finance legal battle

PAWTUCKET - Saying he's setting out to save his "boy" Chubs and "allow all of his sisters and brothers" in the pit bull family the right to live in Pawtucket, local resident Al Alix has launched his legal fight against the city.

Alix is promising a battle against the city he's called home since he was a child, saying he'll work to put an end to Pawtucket's 2004 ban on pit bulls. Financing his effort will be the Defenders of Animals, a Providence-based group with a mission "to defend the inalienable rights of both companion animals and wildlife..."

Defenders of Animals is led by Dennis Tabella, who also serves as executive director of Pawtucket's Woodlawn Community Development Corporation and the Woodlawn Community Center, an organization that gets about $100,000 a year in community development funds from the city.

Providence-based Law Office of Mark Morse serves as legal counsel to the Defenders of Animals and is representing the organization and Alix as they fight Pawtucket's pit bull ban and to uphold a new state law prohibiting such breed-specific ordinances.

According to Morse, Alix has been charged with violations both of the city's leash laws and its ban on pit bulls. Depending on the outcome of a hearing in Pawtucket Municipal Court on Sept. 13, Morse and the Defenders of Animals team are prepared to go to court, said Morse on Monday.

"If they continue to enforce the ordinance, then I think we'll seek redress," he said.

Alix told The Breeze that Sept. 13 is the day "my boy Chubs will be starting the process to allow all of his brothers and sisters the right to be in Pawtucket and to stop the pain that so many families have gone through and to prevent it in the future."

Alix is pushing for "1,000 people" to attend the 9 a.m. hearing on Sept. 13. The Defenders of Animals and Morse will help show Pawtucket officials "they are not above the law," he said.

Dylan Zelazo, spokesman fo Mayor Don Grebien, reiterated this week that the administration believes the new state law is "prospective in nature," and therefore does not impact the city law in effect.

"Public safety remains of paramount priority," he said. "As Chief King has previously stated, 'as chief of police, I want to assure all the citizens of Pawtucket that the Police Department will fairly and impartially enforce all the ordinances of the city of Pawtucket. This includes but is not limited to Chapter 116 Section 37.1 of the ordinances concerning the banning of pit bulls in the city."

On advice from City Solicitor Frank Milos, King feels his department is "on sound legal ground to continue to enforce this ordinance, which was enacted for the safety of the public."

As for Alix's potential lawsuit, said Zelazo, "the city cannot respond to any speculative litigation and will respond to any litigation that may be filed in due course."

The Breeze reported on Aug. 15 that Alix was considering a lawsuit against his home city after animal control officers started proceedings against him for having a pit bull and allowing it to escape his yard on multiple occasions.

Alix, a local real estate agent, told The Breeze that city officials have asked him to get rid of his pit bull, but he has refused.

The Rhode Island General Assembly this year overwhelmingly approved a bill by Providence state Rep. Tom Palangio to prohibit communities from implementing bans on certain breeds of dogs. Palangio made no secret that the bill was aimed directly at Pawtucket's pit bull ban.

City officials believe that the bill, which was sponsored on the Senate side by North Providence Sens. Frank Ciccone and Dominick Ruggerio, does not have a bearing on ordinances already in place but only on future ones. They maintain that Pawtucket's 2004 ban on the breed remains in effect.

Alix admits that he violated Pawtucket's leash law when he allowed Chubs to escape from his yard three straight nights earlier this month. As he was momentarily using the bathroom, he said, Chubs "wandered off into the street."

Alix said he started noticing small yard items like decorative rabbits showing up in his yard. The items appeared to have been mangled by Chubs. When he realized that the items belonged to his life-long neighbor on Harris Street, he offered to buy her new ones. But the neighbor said she had the items for the past 40 years and they had sentimental value that could not be replaced.

The neighbor filed an official complaint with Animal Control Officer John Holmes, who later said he had "no choice" but to start proceedings to take the dog away. A father of three small children across the street was among other neighbors who also complained informally, according to Holmes.

Alix said he came about housing Chubs about 15 months ago when his daughter moved away. Chubs has been living with Alix and his mother, June, ever since.