Pawtucket not enforcing state pitbull law

By: Robert Bumsted         



The City of Pawtucket says it will continue enforcing its ban on residents owning pit bulls despite a new state law that bans other cities from doing the same.

“I would want my streets to be safe from vicious animals. Specifically, the pit bull,” says Pawtucket Director of Public Safety Tony Pires.

In 2004, Pires says the city enacted the pit bull ban in response to a rash of pitbull attacks. But now the state is taking a stand against bans like Pawtucket's.

Governor Lincoln Chafee has signed a bill into law preventing cities and towns from banning specific breeds of dogs and cats. “We interpreted it as that basically no city or town shall enact such a statute moving forward,” says Pires.

But the sponsor of the bill, State Representative Thomas Palangio, (D-Providence), disagrees, saying the state law supercedes municipal law. Palangio is asking Attorney General Peter Kilmartin for his legal opinion.

Meanwhile, some animal rights activists are using the dispute as a chance to urge the city to change its mind.

“The thing about pit bulls is that you just have to be responsible, but that's like all dogs,” says Susan Parker of the Little Rhody Bully Breed Club. Her organization rescues pit bulls from shelters, training many of them for use in human therapy.

Parker's organization lobbied at the Statehouse to get this latest law pawssed. She is advocating for cities like Pawtucket to enact laws that punish dog owners rather than the dogs, themselves.