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Editorial: Pittsfield's pit problem shouldn't become Schenectady's

Editorial: Pittsfield's pit problem shouldn't become Schenectady's

City must alter law to keep vicious dogs out

The Schenectady City Council may have acted in good faith when it crafted a law earlier this summer targeting the city’s vicious dog problem, but it failed to contemplate a loophole that is now threatening to bite the city hard: dogs that have been declared vicious elsewhere being imported here.

Under the city’s new law, prior offenses don’t count if they didn’t occur within city limits. And so a notorious pit bull from Pittsfield, Mass., who in June was part of an attack so brutal that it left a 9-year-old boy with part of his scalp ripped off, was not only allowed to move into Schenectady, its owner doesn’t even have to comply with the new law’s liability insurance requirement for owners of dogs that have been officially declared vicious.

The judge who allowed Lori Rohde to keep one of her two vicious pit bulls on the condition that she and the dog move out of town may have solved his community’s problem, but is no less a menace to society than her surviving dog Zeus. A dog that obviously can’t be controlled and is capable of an attack as vicious as the one in Pittsfield doesn’t deserve a second chance.

And even if the attack was a first offense for Zeus — who was just 5 months old at the time — it clearly wasn’t his owner’s: As reporter Kathleen Moore revealed in Thursday’s Gazette, Rohde’s dogs have been involved in at least three incidents in which they’ve gotten loose, fought with one another or attacked police. Even if this woman is not a bad actor, she clearly shouldn’t be allowed to keep a pit bull that has attacked humans; and it was irresponsible of the Central Berkshire District Court to approve any settlement that allowed her to.

As for Schenectady’s new law compelling owners of dogs that have been declared vicious (technically “dangerous” under the law), it shouldn’t matter where they’ve earned that distinction — in Schenectady, elsewhere in New York state or on the moon. If they’re moving to Schenectady with such a dog, they should be compelled to buy liability insurance. If they don’t like it, let them move elsewhere.

We can only hope, for the sake of the residents of Zeus’ new neighborhood, that Schenectady animal control officers (who have already ticketed Rohde once for not licensing Zeus) continue to keep a close watch on her. Neighbors should also report any violations they might observe so a record is established that will allow the city to take prompt action if it becomes necessary.

As for the state, maybe it’s worth looking into a law that would prevent any dog with a history of vicious behavior from being allowed to move here.

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