Council is considering an ordinance regulating the dogs.
By VIRGINIA ROSS
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Cindy Mittica said she recognizes the number of stray pit bulls wandering the streets of New Castle has increased dramatically over the past few years.
Mittica, director of the Lawrence County Humane Society, said, however, that the owners, and not the animals, should be punished for the neglect.
Mittica spoke to city council at a work session earlier this week. Her comments were in response to a proposed ordinance that could put tighter reins on the owners of pit bulls.
"This is a people problem, not an animal problem," she said. "The dogs are just doing what they're programmed to do. If they've been programmed to fight, they will fight."
She said many of the dogs have serious injuries such as cuts, broken legs and missing ears when they arrive at the animal shelter.
"But it's not their fault," she said. "Their owners should be the ones held accountable. We need more enforcement, stronger fines, stricter regulations. I just hope you consider that before you pass this ordinance."
Mittica said she does not agree with prohibiting ownership of the dogs in the city.
Can't ban the breed
Last year, concerned about the number of pit bulls in the city, council asked city solicitor Paula Cialella to review the city's animal ordinances and look into drafting a measure that would regulate ownership of pit bulls.
Cialella explained to council she does not believe that the breed can be outlawed entirely, and further, trying to do so could be viewed as a violation of the owners' constitutional rights.
However, council can enact an ordinance requiring special permits for those breeds of dogs and permit fees, she said.
Cialella has continued working on the wording of the proposed measure since she presented council with a draft of the ordinance earlier this year.
Her draft addresses pit bulls, American pit bulls and Strafford shire terriers, which are the three categories the American Kennel Association classifies as dangerous dogs.
Council said it would take Mittica's comments into consideration before moving forward with the proposed ordinance.