Residents seek dog law change


By Lenny C. Lepola -

An American Pit Bull Terrier

An American Pit Bull Terrier

During last Wednesday evening’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.

In other business, Delaware County Emergency Management Agency Director Sean Miller was in chambers to explain the proposed EMA funding change that requires the approval of at least half of the county’s political subdivisions to become effective in 2018.

Miller said the countywide EMA agreement hasn’t changed since it was created in 1989. Townships and villages are charged $.40 per capita for EMA services, and Delaware County contributes another $.20 for each county resident.

“Funding grants were down three percent last year and are slated for another 20 percent drop, while the cost of doing business is going up,” Miller said. “Our board is proposing a change from the current fixed per capita model to a population percentage model. Our board would determine the need, then the county commissioners will appropriate the money, and the ratio would remain the same. The county would pay one-third, and political subdivisions would pay the remaining two-thirds based on population percentage.”

Dayna Stelzer and Cindy Erndt were in chambers seeking permission to hold a Chief’s Champions 5K Fun Run and 1-miler as a fundraiser for BST&G Fire Chief Jeff Wilson. Wilson had been recovering from surgery for Glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer.

The non-competitive Fun Run 5K/1-miler starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 6, at the Big Walnut Grill in the Sunbury Mills (Kroger) Plaza at 175 State Route 3 in Sunbury. The individual runners or walkers registration fee is $25, family rate $50.

For registration information contact Dayna Stelzer by calling 614-746-2702, or email Stelzer at < >. On Facebook search for Chief’s Champions Fun Run & 5k.

Sunbury’s website is located at

Sunbury Village Council meets the first and third Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m., third floor council chambers, Sunbury Town Hall. Council committees meet one hour before regularly scheduled council sessions. All village council and council committee meetings are open to the public.

An American Pit Bull Terrier American Pit Bull Terrier

By Lenny C. Lepola

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

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