Following Mayor Gary Christensen’s veto of Motion 246, Creating an ordinance requiring pit bulls to be muzzled, the Malden City Council on Tuesday evening voted 10-1 that the motion be sent back to committee for further discussion.
On April 20, Mayor Christensen returned the controversial ordinance to the City Council unsigned but with “amendments” that reject breed-specific legislation and address the behavior of both the dog and the owner. The mayor’s letter to the City Council, which can be found on the Malden City Council website, www.cityofmalden.org, states that “the ordinance should be centered on how a dog behaves and not how a dog looks… accurate visual recognition of a pit bull is all but impossible and I could foresee legal challenges to determine a dog’s heritage. Furthermore, crafting an ordinance based on how a dog looks does not address the fact that 100 percent of the dog bites occurring between 2009 and 2012 were from dogs that were off-leash.”
After City Clerk Karen Andersen finished reading out the letter at the full council meeting, Ward 6 Councillor Neil Kinnon─the ordinance’s number one proponent─immediately called for a motion to approve the original paper, notwithstanding the mayor’s objections. He was seconded by Ward 2 Councillor Jim Nestor; however, the motion did not pass; Councillors Peg Crowe, Barbara Murphy, Gregory Lucey, Steve Ultrino and John Matheson voted against it. Councillor Matheson, in turn, proposed a motion of his own. “I recommend we send the paper back to the committee with the mayor’s recommendations for discussion.” It passed, 10-1, with everyone but Councillor Nestor voting for it.
This City Council meeting attracted many pit bull owners, all of whom were very happy with the mayor’s decision. “He answered concerns raised by councillors. It was reasonable, thoughtful and comprehensive,” said Susan Lawrence, who started a petition two weeks ago against breed specific legislation and muzzling. “I agree with what Councillor Kinnon said last week about broken windows─if I see litter in front of my house, I clean it up so no one would be inclined to litter there again─but I don’t see how muzzled animals will help. In fact, a muzzled pit bull looks more threatening, like a broken window.”
Later, Councillor Kinnon said, “I am sad and disappointed that the Mayor, who I respect greatly, missed the opportunity to make our city a safer and more desirable place to live by vetoing the pit bull ordinance. The supposed amendment he sent back provides nothing more than our current ordinance on dogs in Chapter 9 section 16 through 25 and is an attempt to make people believe somehow he is proposing something that will make them safer. Sixty percent of all disfiguring and fatal dog attacks nationally are committed by this breed when they make up five percent or less of the dog population. A pit bull bite is not a typical dog bite. The Mayor’s proposal to classify dogs as vicious only after they have bitten is like the person who knows they have high cholesterol saying they are going to take care of themselves after they have their first heart attack.”