Since 2004 the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, has had a ban on pit bulls. City officials claim the ban has worked as intended, and both pit bull bites and the euthanasia of dangerous dogs have been dramatically reduced over the last decade.
But, on Tuesday, November 14, a Superior Court judge ruled the ordinance invalid, saying the 10-year-old measure violates a 2013 state law passed by the General Assembly that prohibits cities and towns from banning specific dog breeds (BSL). The judge held that the state statute supersedes the city ordinance, according to ABC6.
City Animal Control Supervisor John Holmes, a 40-year animal control veteran, is disappointed, because he believes opponents of the ban continue to misinterpret officials’ rationale for making pit bull ownership illegal, he explained to WPRI. “The ordinance was put into effect, naturally, to protect the people, and also to protect the animal from the drug dealers and the people who want to get them and breed them and fight them.
“It was unbelievable," Holmes said. “Pit bulls were euthanized here on a weekly basis. Since the ordinance was enacted, we probably have had to put down maybe two or three pit bulls a year,” said Holmes. “We all hate euthanasia. We didn’t like this. Now I’m afraid we’re going to go back to it.”
The ordinance was challenged by Pawtucket resident Al Alix and the Defenders of Animals. Dennis Tabela, director that group, told WCRI, “A lot of people in Pawtucket had to move out of Pawtucket. They had to give up their dogs, it just wasn’t right.”
City officials responded that the 2013 state law wasn’t retroactive and the City’s ban contained a ‘grandfathering’ clause for those who owned pit bulls within the city at that time.
Animal Control Supervisor John Holmes said the City will respect the judge’s ruling. “As of today, this law is not being enforced in the city of Pawtucket,” he said.
The city has not yet decided whether or not it will appeal the ruling.
Meanwhile, WLNE-TV reports that a nonprofit group, Pit Bulls for PTSD, already plans to hold a pit bull parade on Sunday in Slater Park to celebrate the court's decision.
The parade will start at a dog park and then loop through the neighborhood and end with a free dog-training session.
Pit Bulls for PTSD told WPRI it trains pit bulls to become service dogs for people with post-traumatic stress disorder and children with autism.