The Hastings City Council held a public hearing Monday to take public comments on a revised dog ordinance involving pit bull dogs.
Four people spoke during the public hearing, several more during public comment, and three letters were sent to the council, all supporting the revised ordinance that removed any mention of the specific breeds of pit bulls as dangerous dogs, changed to define dangerous actions by any dog. Several thanked the council for its attention to their comments and its work to change the ordinance.
The council had several options; leave the ordinance as it is; schedule a first reading of the ordinance, send the ordinance back to the police chief and attorney for further revisions, or take more time to consider the next steps.
They opted to send the ordinance back to Police Chief Jeff Pratt and Attorney Stephanie Fekkes to include two language changes. Councilwoman Theresa Maupin-Moore asked for clarification on working dogs, such as law enforcement K-9s and Councilman Don Smith asked that if a dog harmed a person or another animal, the owner must buy insurance with a certificate of insurance going to the city to assure they continue to have coverage.
The motion made by Brenda McNabb-Stange called for the revisions and a first reading of the ordinance at the next meeting, which triggers a second reading at the following meeting and action by the council.
The meeting was quiet in contrast to previous city council meetings during discussions by strong advocates for pit bulls and mixed pit bull breeds, and those as just as adamantly opposed to them.
While speakers were unanimous in their support of the breed Monday, some on the council had reservations.
Councilman Don Bowers told of deaths of humans and animals by pit bulls and told supporters, “You ignore the other point of view that say it is a problem,” cautioning they should recognize the other side of the argument. Councilman Bill Cusack pointed out pit bulls have killed people in other parts of the country, but also as close as Kalamazoo. “People should be aware of these things so close to home.”
Mayor Dave Tossava said the council is responsible for the safety of citizens and his concern was that an ordinance has “teeth” for enforcement.
Asked for statistics, Pratt said in the city between 2011 and 2015, 48.5 percent of dog bites were by pit bulls; in 2016-2017, the number was 46.5 percent.
Councilman John Resseguie said the ordinance change could, “come back to bite us… if your dog bites someone, just remember, you wanted this new ordinance.”