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Parma pit bull ban challenge could go to a vote

Posted at 10:34 PM, Oct 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-13 09:14:06-04

Parma's 31-year-old pit bull law has been facing a challenge from a local animal advocacy group, Guilty 'Til Proven Innocent, for several months, but the issue could be given to Parma voters to decide.

Guilty Till Proven Innocent founder Jeff Theman told News 5 his group is willing to gather the necessary signatures to get a change in the law on the ballot, but he hopes lawmakers will amend the law without a vote.

Theman's group was successful in getting Lakewood to change it's breed specific law to a law that holds the owners of any breed of dog accountable for their dog's behavior.

Theman believes a pit bull ban simply isn't effective.

"The bans don't get down to the actual problem, which is behavior," Theman said.

"In Lakewood, we just kept on showing up to council meetings, we kept on making our presence felt, and we just kept on giving them the facts," he said.

Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter told News 5 he believes the current law is working, admitting the ban is enforced only when they get complaints from residents.

"From our administration standpoint we think it's working, it's been in place since I was in high school," DeGeeter said.

"I think the way we handle it is fair, and we give households plenty of time to comply if they are found in violation."

"However, I am fine with putting it on the ballot.  Get signatures, go take the case to the voters, it's the most democratic process and allows the voters to decide on that," he said.

DeGeeter said he's heard from residents on all sides of the issue, and some residents believe the breed is simply too dangerous when it's in the hands of an irresponsible owner.

Still, Theman's group, which put out a documentary on the issue, and plans to release a second documentary soon, believes city bans on the breed are based on fear and not on better over-all enforcement of dog owners.

"I don't think the police departments and the animal control departments communicate very well, so it's communication all around in the city," Theman said.

Theman told News 5 his group would once again attend the Parma city council meeting on Oct. 15.