Those violating the law could face six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
By ANGIE SCHMITT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN — Lock up your pit bulls: A new law tightening the city’s reign over the breed takes effect today.
Youngstown will no longer permit residents to buy or otherwise acquire dogs of the “dangerous” breed, said city Prosecutor Jay Macejko. Those who already own purebred and mixed-breed pit bulls will be subject to five restrictions, he said.
The dogs must be muzzled and leashed by a length of no more than 4 feet or contained in a latched enclosure. “Beware of Dog” signs must be posted on both the enclosure and the home, said Macejko.
The breed must be registered with the Mahoning County Dog Warden by today, and re-registered every year following, said Macejko. Dog owners must also carry a $100,000 liability dangerous dog insurance policy on each pit bull.
Lastly, and most-importantly, said Macejko, puppies born to any pit bulls must immediately be removed from the city.
Enforcement will begin today, he said.
“If we find a nonexempted pit bull, it is subject to seizure and destruction,” he said.
Those found guilty of violating the ordinance could also be subject to jail sentences of up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000.
City council approved legislation targeting the breed Sept. 5. Ban proponents hope the law will curb dog attacks and underground dog fighting activities in the city.
Opponents have said the ban is unfairly singles out the breed, which is not aggressive by nature.
Animal Charity humane agent John Hall said he’s supportive of the ban.
“It’s not going to hurt the responsible owner,” he said. “It’s going to hurt the people who don’t want to register, who just keep them in front of drug houses and fight them.
Hall said he hopes other area municipalities will join in the crackdown.
The situation with the breed is “just out of hand,” he said.
A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control in 2000 found that pit bull terriers were involved in nearly one-third of national death-by-dog-bite cases between 1979 and 1996. Most of the victims were children, the study reports.
The Mahoning County General Health District does not track dog bites by breed, said Health Commissioner Matthew Stefanak. However, the agency reported 172 animal bites for every 100,000 residents in Youngstown last year — a 5 percent decline since 1997. Dog bites accounted for 95 percent of animal bites in Youngstown.