High Court Upholds Pit Bull Ban
Charleston, WV - In a memorandum decision filed January 14, the highest court in West Virginia affirmed the constitutionality of a breed-specific ordinance that prohibited the ownership of pit bull terriers in the Town of Ceredo. In the decision, the high court affirmed the order of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Darrell Pratt, who had affirmed the Municipal Court of Ceredo's conviction of three defendants for the possession of pit bulls within the boundaries of Ceredo.
The defendants were convicted by the municipal court on November 12, 2009 and each fined $162 plus costs. They appealed to the Wayne County Circuit Court arguing that the ordinance was "unconstitutional in that it is arbitrary and unreasonable." At the circuit court hearing, defendant Glenna Pelfrey failed to appear. Her appeal was dismissed and her conviction affirmed. The circuit court then ruled on the constitutionality of the Town of Ceredo's pit bull ordinance.
Circuit Court's Findings:
- "That each Defendant’s dogs are of the breed that is typically referred to generically as pit bull dogs which are aggressive by nature, have been known as attack animals with strong massive heads and jaws, and have been found to represent a public health hazard. The majority of jurisdictions have accepted the proposition that dogs of this type have a propensity to be aggressive and attack without provocation and it is well established that such dogs have gotten a lot of notoriety of being dangerous to public health and safety."
- "That in the State of West Virginia, a municipality has the authority to pass an ordinance to promote the safety of its citizens and to prevent risk of harm to its citizens which is a legitimate exercise of their police powers as granted by the West Virginia Legislature in Chapter 8 Article 12 of the West Virginia Code."
- "The ownership, maintenance and control of dogs or other animals within city limits is a local concern which does not exceed the limitations of the home rule doctrine."
- "That § 505.16 of the Codified Ordinances of the Town of Ceredo is legitimate, specific, rationally related to that legitimate interest and exercises the constitutional powers of the municipality to impose safety regulations to insure the health, protection and welfare of the citizens."
- "That the ordinance is not constitutionally vague nor does it violate the due process of the Defendants because the owners may by limited by and subject to the City’s legitimate exercise of police powers by living inside the city limits."
- "That the conviction of each Defendant was based upon the evidence that these were pit bull dogs, they were within the city limits, and they were owned, harbored or maintained by each of the defendants within the jurisdiction and based upon the same the Court finds that there was no violation of due process."
Defendants Steve Hardwick and Sharon Nalley1 appealed the circuit court's order to the state Supreme Court. The Prosecuting Attorney for the Town of Ceredo, Lora L. Lake, filed the response to the appeal and successfully argued the circuit course case.
Supreme Court of Appeals:
After careful consideration of the parties’ arguments, this Court concludes
that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioners’ appeal. Having reviewed the circuit court’s “Order” entered
on June 7, 2011, we hereby adopt and incorporate the circuit court’s well-reasoned findings and conclusions as to the assignment of error
raised in this appeal. The Clerk is directed to attach a copy of the circuit court’s order to this memorandum decision.For the foregoing reasons, we find no error in the decision of the circuit court and its June 7, 2011 order denying petitioners’ appeal is affirmed.
The State of West Virginia now joins eleven other U.S. states and the District of Columbia where appellate courts have affirmed the constitutionality of a breed-specific pit bull ordinance. These states include: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. (Kudos to Prosecuting Attorney Lora Lake, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Darrell Pratt and the concurring Supreme Court of Appeals Justices.)
08/12/12: Maryland Court of Appeals Narrows Decision to Pit Bulls; Removes Cross-Bred Pit Bulls
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12/10/09: 2009 Dog Bite Fatality: 70-Year Old Dies After Violent Maiming by Pit Bulls