When dogs bite, David Satterlee doesn't blame the dogs.

"I blame owners of dogs," the York City councilman said. "Clearly, people have taken on animals that they are not educated about and not prepared to control."

Satterlee said he's not formed any opinions yet about how to address that problem or whether the council should do anything at all.

But, he said, he is "interested in pursuing it, primarily because people have asked us to look at the legislation we currently have."

Last week, a city resident asked the council to consider tighter restrictions on the ownership of "dangerous dogs."

Heather Pratt, who lives across the street from a woman attacked and seriously injured July 4 by three pit bulls, called it "an issue of public safety."

There are no formal proposals on the table, but several council members said they are willing to have a conversation about dogs in York City.

"Is there anything we can do to improve the laws to protect people and build maybe stronger expectations for dog owners?" Satterlee said. "If anything, I would love to see stronger consequences for people who keep animals which they were not able to control. Your dogs shouldn't be able to break out through the fence of your yard."

Enforcement: As several council members pointed out, municipalities are prohibited by state law from banning specific dog breeds.


"My thoughts on it are that there needs to be stricter and stronger enforcement of whatever is on the books," Council President Carol Hill-Evans said. "I see people all the time with their dogs, and pit bulls, off leash. Enforce that."

Councilman Michael Helfrich said he, also, wants "to see existing laws enforced."

Councilwoman Renee Nelson said she'd never support a ban on ownership of pit bulls, even if it was legal. Too many people are breeding pit bulls, and "that's why they're all at the SPCA," she said.

Nelson said she favors tougher enforcement of existing laws.

"I think this all just boils down to people just need to be more responsible," she said.

The numbers: Since Jan. 1, York City's Bureau of Health has recorded 69 incidents of cats and dogs biting or scratching people.

In a majority of cases, the offending animal was a pit bull, said Terri Fitzgerald, the bureau's animal-bite prevention coordinator.

However, she said, most of those bites did not result in injuries as serious as those sustained by the woman attacked as she mowed her yard July 4.

York City's animal enforcement officer filed six summary citations against the dogs' owner.

Often, injuries from bites are reported by hospital personnel treating infected wounds, Fitzgerald said. Hospitals and police officers are required to report animal bites to the bureau, she said.

Fitzgerald said the number of pit-bull bites has been rising for years, likely tied to the increasing popularity of the breed.

As of Friday, the bite statistics in York City are as follows: eight cats, three Chihuahuas, two boxers, five mutts, 10 unknown dogs, one rottweiler and 40 pit bulls.

The health bureau records whether bites were provoked or unprovoked — when that information is available — but Fitzgerald did not have it readily available.

— Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.