Council: State leaders should rethink change to pit bull law

Council: State leaders should rethink change to pit bull law

PAWTUCKET – City Council members are renewing criticism of state lawmakers over a 2013 law that prohibited communities from banning specific breeds of dogs. They say the ban against pit bulls previously on Pawtucket’s books was working well.

Councilor Terry Mercer said last week that the city’s 2004 law against pit bulls worked for a decade to reduce attacks in the city and keep residents safe.

An attack by a pit bull-boxer mix that killed a small dog in June could be the first of many, said Mercer, after a judge upheld the General Assembly’s law change and struck down Pawtucket’s pit bull ban in 2014.

Mercer pointed to a decision by a local panel last week deeming the pit-boxer vicious as evidence for why the law was needed.

Mercer and others are calling on Pawtucket’s General Assembly delegation to help hammer home the point to their colleagues that city officials aren’t a bunch of “breed racists,” and that this was a “well thought-out and well-implemented ordinance.” There is no arguing the fact that the city saw a dramatic decline in pit bull-related attacks after the ordinance was first approved in 2004, he said.

Council members want Pawtucket senators and representatives to work to convince other lawmakers that the 2013 law should be reversed.

“It may not come to fruition, but we have to do something,” said Mercer. “I said specifically that this is what we were going to be heading toward, and it’s exactly where we are now.”

Councilor Mark Wildenhain pointed out that the Pawtucket Animal Shelter is again full of pit bulls that are quarantined or up for adoption.

The city didn’t have this problem while the law was in place, he said. The General Assembly took a law that “was very effective” and made the problem worse for a local community, said Wildenhain.

Council President David Moran said he continues to be “disgusted” by what state leaders did to overturn the Pawtucket law, calling it an “atrocity.”

“They should have just left us alone,” he said, adding that legislators “took the rug out from underneath us.”