Sunbury residents seek dog law change


During last week’s Sunbury Village Council meeting, a standing-room-only crowd was in chambers to ask council members to amend the village’s vicious dog law and make it breed neutral.

Dave Martin, a former village administrator, introduced the topic to council members on April 19, speaking on behalf of the group known as Breed Neutral for Sunbury.

“There’s no such thing as a vicious breed of dog; there are vicious dogs,” Martin said. “We would like for the village to remove the pit bull language from its current ordinance. We understand that there are dog incidents in the village, but they are vicious dog incidents, not a vicious breed indicator.”

Humane Society of Delaware County Executive Director Carol Girberd said she has never run into a vicious pit bull.

“There are vicious dogs of all types, but to label a pit bull as vicious is unfair,” Girberd said. “Every dog is capable of being vicious, depending on how they’re raised.”

Girberd said that 500,000 dogs are euthanized each year, and 40 percent of all shelter-euthanized dogs are pit bulls – not because they are vicious but because of the negative public persona attached to the breed.

“Legislation condemns dogs to death simply because of the way they look,” Girberd said. “We need to learn to condemn the behavior and not the breed. Breed neutral laws protect the community the best because every breed of dog has its problems; there are no perfect dog breeds.”

Girberd said every individual dog should be judged by the nature of its own character. She said Sunbury’s ban against Pit Bull Terriers creates a false sense of security because it implies that without that specific breed of dog inside the village, there would be no vicious dog attacks.

“Your legislation does not protect the community,” Girberd said. “The management of the dog does.”

Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield said he understands that the village ban against owning Pit Bull Terriers is an emotional topic.

“This is legislation that has been in place since the early 1990s, and nobody up here was on council when this legislation was passed except Len Weatherby,” Hatfield said. “This is a complex issue; this is a topic that’s going to take time and study. I’m not an expert on dogs and dog breeds, but we will take this into consideration. Our concern is doing what’s right and best for our community.”

An article in the Thursday, July 25, 1991, edition of The Sunbury News notes the unanimous passing of an ordinance by Sunbury Village Council banning the ownership of Pit Bull Terriers inside the village, and also requires the owner of a vicious dog to obtain a minimum of $100,000 liability insurance to be used in the event of damages to others caused by a vicious dog.

An American Pit Bull Terrier American Pit Bull Terrier

By Lenny C. Lepola

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Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.

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