The Gallipolis Police Department will be in charge of determining what dogs are pit bulls and those judged to be of the breed will then be picked up by the Gallia County Assistant Dog Warden.
Determinations will be made based on physical appearance as to whether or not the dog meets the criteria of any of the breeds specified in the city’s ordinance, according to GPD Chief Clint Patterson.
DNA tests will not be used, although they are considered to be the most consistent means in determining dog breed, according to Gallia County Humane Education Officer Lisa Beck.
Beck said that there are four dog breeds commonly mistaken for pit bulls, one being an English Bulldog, and without a DNA test it is impossible to positively identify a dog’s breed with 100 percent accuracy. She added that the tests can be expensive, usually costing around $100 each.
Patterson said the city will rely on the judgment of its officers and, of course, admission by owners. Furthermore, if an owner has paperwork proving that their dog is not a pit bull, then the dog will not be treated as such. He added that, pending approval by the city commission, owners of pit bulls that are found not to be a danger will be given seven days to remove their dog from the city, though dogs that are considered to be dangerous will have to be removed immediately.
Patterson recommends that city pit bull owners find a place for their dogs to live outside the city limits, as state law remains the same in areas outside the city limits where it is legal to own the breed.
Owners who do not remove their dogs from the city face maximum penalties of a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
Patterson said four pit bull dogs were dealt with over the weekend, though he has received no feedback from those incidents. He also said that the GPD will not be targeting the breed for confiscation; officers will respond to any citizen complaints received and will take appropriate action when they come across the breed in the line of duty.
“We’d appreciate people dealing with their dogs before we have to,” Patterson said.
The ban was instituted following an attack on a 13-year-old girl by two pit bulls in January that left her severely injured. According to Patterson, charges against the owner of the dogs for violating the insurance ordinance have been pursued and are currently pending at the prosecutor’s office.
The ordinance makes it unlawful to own, possess, keep, exercise control over, maintain, harbor, transport, or sell any pit bull dogs within the city limits. The legislation defines pit bulls to include the breeds of American Pit Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier. The ban also extends to mixed breed dogs that contain pit bull and “vicious dogs” that have without provocation killed or caused serious injury to any person, or have killed another dog.
According to the city commission, pit bull owners who do not live in the city are allowed to travel through Gallipolis with their dogs in their vehicles “as long as the windows are such that the (pit bull) cannot escape.”
Since the ordinance has been passed, accusations against suspected pit bulls have been numerous regarding dogs inside and outside of the city.
Patterson said the GPD has already responded to a number of calls involving the breed, and in several cases, the dogs accused were clearly not pit bulls.
Residents should be reminded that the breed of a canine does not necessarily determine its character; most dogs are only as good as they are raised to be and while owning pit bulls in the city may not be legal as of today, the breed is allowed everywhere else in Gallia County and throughout the majority of the state.