August 23, 2019

City votes to keep pit bull ban


WEST BRANCH — Pit bulls still do not have a place in the city of West Branch, according to the West Branch City Council, which voted 3-2 to uphold the city’s 14-year ban on the animals at its April 1 meeting.

City resident Kelly Sancrant asked the city to consider changing the ordinance, as she recently purchased a pit bull without knowing the city had a ban on them. Sancrant argued that pit bulls in general are not violent.

“My dog is now a family pet,” she said. “I have six grandchildren that love her dearly, and now we have to get rid of her.”

Sancrant said she originally believed the stigma that pit bulls were violent, but after her daughter got one, her opinions changed.

“They are very affectionate, loving dogs,” Sancrant said. “I had that stigma. I thought they were (violent) until I got to know them.”

City council members Tim Shaiberger, Kim Ervans and Denise Lawrence voted to uphold the ban, with Bill Ehinger and Mayor Todd Thompson voting no. Rusty Showalter and Chad Lucas were both absent.

Ervans said he thought the ordinance should stand.

“I think we created that ordinance for a particular purpose,” he said. “There are a couple breeds of dogs that have been a serious problem, a serious threat across the nation. There are many communities throughout the country that have ordinances. I guess I maintain I don’t see a problem with that ordinance.”

Lawrence said a relative of hers was bit by a pit bull in the city three years ago.

“I have a niece who was bit by a pit bull in town,” she said. “I have no use for people that can’t control their dogs. I think we have an ordinance for a reason. There are many communities that prohibit pit bull ownership.”

Thompson argued that all dogs could be violent.

“Any dog — I have a dog, it’s a Yorkie,” Thompson said. “It weighs four pounds. Believe me, it’ll snip at you. It’s all about how you train the dog.”

After the city council voted to uphold the ordinance, Sancrant said she will bring the issue back to the city once the other two council members are back. However, Thompson informed her that in order to have the issue revisited, all five city council members have to vote to reopen it.

City Manager Tom Youatt reminded Sancrant that since the ordinance was upheld, she could no longer keep the pit bull in the city.

“By having a pit bull in town, that’s a violation,” he told her.

“I’m not moving any time soon,” Sancrant responded. “And my taxes are paid.”

In other business, the city council voted to accept the resignation of Tom Damoth from the West Branch Downtown Development Authority because moved to Grand Rapids. Damoth was the chairman of the DDA. Youatt said a replacement chairman has not yet been named.


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