Annie Williams, a Cleveland grandmother was mauled by a pit bull while at a relative's Shaker Heights home on July 12.
Councilman Rob Zimmerman said Monday night that, after that incident, residents looked to council to do something.
On that night, City Council heard the first reading of an ordinance aimed at regulating vicious dogs. The ordinance, if passed, would allow pit bulls currently living in the city to remain. It would not, however, allow residents to take ownership of a pit bull starting with the day of the legislation's passage.
Further, the ordinance would require that any dog or animal labeled vicious by the city's animal warden be registered annually with the city at a cost of $20.
"This isn't just for pit bulls," said Law Director Williams Ondrey Gruber, "this is for any dog labeled vicious. The city determines if a dog is vicious. There are just a small number of (vicious dogs) in the city."
Gruber said he spoke with representatives of the city of Lakewood, where pit bull ownership is banned, while crafting the Shaker Heights amendments.
"While dogs of other breeds can and have killed and injured people and pets," Gruber told council, "and many types of dogs have been involved in dog bite incidents, the pit bull dog, statistically, far out ranks any other breed of dog in the number and severity of dog attacks and deaths and injuries related to dogs."
Gruber's report to council noted that pit bulls or pit bull mixes were involved in incidents in which they bit or knocked down U.S. Postal workers on May 23 and Aug. 19 in Shaker Heights, and that a dog was killed by two pit bull terriers in August in Avon Lake. Gruber further told of the strength and unpredictability of the pit bull.
Shaker Heights already has laws designed to keep people safe from vicious dogs, such as those detailing the strength of a leash and the person walking a vicious dog, and how vicious dogs must be contained in yards.
Further restraints would be added as part of the amendments, including mandatory spaying or neutering of a vicious dog; regular rabies vaccinations; and increasing the owner's mandatory liability insurance from $100,000, to $500,000.
The changes were all discussed by City Council's Safety and Public Works Committee. A member of that committee is Councilman James Brady.
"It's almost a phase out of pit bulls in the city," Brady said of not allowing more pit bulls in Shaker Heights in the future.
Brady said he knows some people who own well-mannered pit bulls. Still, he said, since the time the committee discussed the changes, "I was not overwhelmed by phone calls or emails for, or against."
Councilwoman Nancy Moore said the changes in the vicious dog ordinance are in answer to more incidents than Williams' death.
"Less than three months ago, on Scottsdale Road," Moore said, "a runner was bitten four times. The attack was unprovoked."
Moore said that, unless the law is made stronger, "WE'RE WAITING, JUST WAITING, FOR ANOTHER ATTACK TO OCCUR."
The city's animal warden, Brady said, conservatively estimates that there are 200-300 pit bulls now living in Shaker Heights.
The state of Ohio does not consider pit bulls vicious, but the state law does not overturn municipal bans on pit bulls.