Ceylon facing dog problem

CEYLON – A problem with aggressive dogs running loose in Ceylon has resulted in one couple losing their family pet when it was allegedly killed by a neighbor’s pitbull.

Roger and Gail Schultze approached the City Council this week looking for help and resolution.

“This was our Pomeranian,” said Gail Schultze, her voice breaking as she handed out two photos to council members: one of a beloved family pet, the other a matted mess of fur and blood.

“She was tied up outside, and some loose pitbulls came into our yard,” Schultze said.

Another neighbor reported there was a trail of blood that led from the Schultzes’ home to a residence that reportedly houses at least three pitbulls.

But from there, it became a question of whose job it is to enforce city ordinance and state law. The city just recently passed ordinances in order to push pet owners to have licenses and shots up to date on their animals. State law is still being studied by council members, but it was mentioned that pet owners could be fined.

“The reason I’m pushing these licenses is because of exactly this,” said Mayor Jack Schultz.

He estimates there are about 140 dogs in Ceylon. Of these, only 43 are licensed. Registered letters have been sent to dog owners in hopes of getting more animals licensed and vaccinated.

However, there is still the question of exactly how to deal with dangerous animals. There is no licensed dog catcher in Ceylon, and the Martin County Sheriff’s Department does not take animals in its squad cars.

“Yes, this is a problem,” said Deputy Chris Vasvick, who responded to the call regarding the dog attack. “The problem we have is that we’re running up against ordinance enforcement and state statute.”

He added that when he responded to the call, he believed it was a civil issue at that point.

“We have to go by the law and what the law says,” said City Council member Kathy Bremer.

In the meantime, the threat of aggressive dogs has left residents and pet owners in Ceylon on edge. Many in attendance at the meeting this week reported being fearful of letting their pets or children outside. One woman reported a dog chased her on her bike.

“I notice you don’t see a lot of people walking around town, because some people have these aggressive dogs with chains that reach the sidewalk,” Schultz said. “Right now, I would not walk around town without being armed.”

Other pet owners are concerned that all dogs are going to be treated as bad dogs. A suggestion of passing an ordinance banning pitbulls met with resistance.

“I don’t want to see this become a breed war,” said one man who said he owned two pitbulls that were “big babies.”

It was pointed out that there were several other stray, aggressive dogs in the area, all of different breeds.

“What we don’t want to do is to start treating all dogs [as] mean,” Schultz said. “I know dogs get loose, and we could end up being mean to a good dog. What we need to do is differentiate from those from the habitual ones that let their aggressive dogs run loose … We are working on it, but it’s going to take a little time.”