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June 19, 2013

Want to keep a pit bull in Bessemer? Fork over $10,000

NEW CASTLE — It will cost you more than $10,000 to keep a pit bull in Bessemer, starting July 1.

Bessemer Borough Council unanimously revised its 25-year-old pit bull ordinance at a special meeting this week, updating fees to reflect current costs.

The dogs “are considered dangerous animals/dogs and potentially hazardous to the community,” the ordinance states.

Council raised the required bond to keep a pit bull or similar dog more than 6 months old from $5,000 to $10,000. The bond must be posted to help cover victim medical costs in case of an attack.

Council also raised a sliding scale of annual license fees for keeping pit bulls. They now range from $175 per year for one dog to $1,100 for three. The previous scale was $100 to $1,000 annually.

In addition, prospective owners must pay a $75 application fee to get the license. That was raised from $50.

Fines for violating the ordinance were raised from $300 to $500, but a possible 30 days in jail remains unchanged.

One more type of dog, the Rottweiler, was added to dog breeds considered dangerous and potentially hazardous under the new ordinance. Others which meet the definition in both the old and new ordinances are the American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, pit bull and “any dog that fits into the above American Kennel Club definitions, dogs displaying the majority of traits of any of the above breeds including mixed breeds and any dogs for fighting,” the ordinance states.

Other sections of the ordinance that remain unchanged include prohibitions against such dogs running loose, detailed requirements for secure enclosures for them, a requirement they be leashed and muzzled whenever outside their enclosure, and provisions for their seizure and destruction by the borough in case of an attack.

The ordinance had not been changed since it was adopted in 1987 and several council members said they were unaware it existed until a dog complaint came up at the last meeting.

Council President John Kliem is the only current council member who served on council when the original ordinance was passed. He said he had to do some research to find a signed copy of the ordinance, and when he did, he realized that it needed updating.

At the last meeting, a resident complained to council about some dogs believed to be pit bulls behaving in a menacing manner toward neighborhood children. However, Kliem said that follow-up showed the dogs were Boxers.

Council members Brad McKenna and Art VanTassel did not attend the meeting because of work commitments.

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