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Malden City Council to reevaluate pit bull law after mayor's veto

Posted by Matt Byrne  April 26, 2012 10:14 AM

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The Malden City Council will reevaluate a controversial ordinance requiring the muzzling of pit bulls in public when not on their owner's property after the measure was vetoed by Mayor Gary Christenson.

On Tuesday, an effort to override the veto fell two votes shy of the required eight-member super majority required to force the ordinance into law.

Now the measure -- which divided residents and drew heated opposition from dog owners and animal rescue officials -- will go back to the Ordinance Committee, where it is not expected to be taken up for nearly a month, according to the city clerk's office.

City councilors Peg Crowe, Gregory Lucey, Barbara Murphy, Steven Ultrino, and John P. Matheson voted to keep the law in committee, while the remaining six councilors, Craig Spadafora, Judith Bucci, Neal Anderson, James Nestor, David D'Arcangelo, and the law's architect, Neil Kinnon, sought to enact it despite Christenson's objections.

In a lengthy response to the law included with his veto, the mayor suggested a raft of amendments that amount to a total rethinking of how the city deals with dog owners, and includes language that for the first time defines irresponsible dog owners and removes breed-specific language.

"The ordinance should be centered on how a dog behaves and not how a dog looks, as I believe this legislation suggests," Christenson wrote in a letter to the council that outlined an amended version of the law. "The amendment I offer squarely addresses the behavior on the part of both the dog and the owner."

Christenson wrote that the previous ordinance was narrow and could have opened the city up to legal challenges.

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