New law in South Jordan takes bite at bull terrier

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    By MARCUS BURTON

    Man’s best friend has met opposition in South Jordan.

    The city has passed a law banning new ownership of bull terriers and placed restrictions on current owners. The law, passed in December, will be effective Feb. 2.

    The decision to ban bull terriers came after a 5-year-old girl was attacked in April of last year, the South Jordan City Department of Animal Control said.

    Since the attack, the city has been working on a way to protect its citizens so that public as well as residential places are safe from the threat of a pit bull.

    “Paramount in this issue was the overriding concern for the health, safety and welfare of our citizens,” said Pamela Rasmussen of the Department of Animal Control.

    City Administrator Dave Millheim said the city already has a vicious animal law, but this is the first to actually target a specific kind of animal.

    Municipalities in the country were surveyed to see how others have handled pit bull problems in the past. The approach adopted by South Jordan was patterned after a law was passed in Cincinnati in 1986.

    North Salt Lake is the only other area in Utah to pass an ordinance targeting pit bulls.

    “In my mind the city has to do what is right,” Millheim said. “It’s not a matter of surveying who has done this before. We had to look at what protects the health and welfare of the citizens.”

    Current owners of pit bulls can only keep their dogs if they comply with a checklist of requirements.

    Owners must obtain a “Pit Bull Terrier Permit” by paying a $20 administrative fee, insuring their dog for up to $50,000 in damages, and either implanting a pet identification microchip or placing a tattoo on the animal for positive identification.

    Although city officials feel the law will help curb the threat of violence from pit bulls, some residents are skeptical.

    The solution should not be banning one dog but creating stricter penalties for any dog that threatens others, said Rhonda Mchaley, resident of South Jordan.

    “I think any dog is capable of violence and the law should penalize that behavior,” she said.

    The Department of Animal Control, however, has had relatively positive reactions from pit bull owners.

    “We have had responsible people ask,’What do we need to do to get our dog properly licensed,'” Millheim said.

    Pit bull owners have until Feb. 2 to licence their dogs, after which unlicensed dogs will be put to sleep.

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