Following another forceful public comment session at last night’s township council meeting, Councilman Bernard Hamilton said the adoption of Memphis the pit bull had to be resolved for the good of the township.
“From my perspective, when there’s activity without results or resolution, chaos continues. We need to cut the chaos. We need to make a decision.”
He said the two most important issues are the image of the township and the protection of the shelter, both of which were being compromised by the months-long standoff between animal advocates and the township.
“The public is asking us to make a decision so these two individuals can care for the dog," he said, referring to local dog trainers Jeff and Diana Coltenback, whose application to adopt the dog was rejected by the Board of Health in August. "They are willing to take this risk. I don’t understand why this can’t be resolved. Why not make this simple and let the man adopt the dog?”
Councilman Nick Joanow quickly followed Hamilton’s example, saying, “I’m confident Jeff has the credentials to rehabilitate the dog.”
Mayor Raymond McCarthy said he hoped to resolve the matter soon with the aid of the township attorney.
“I have no problem making sure Memphis is in a place where he’s being taken care of,” he said. “The town attorney will have to be consulted, though.”
McCarthy said the next step would be “a conversation with the Board of Health.”
“I don’t have the power to take the keys and let Memphis free because there’s a lawsuit going on,” he said, adding that he expected the issue to come up again at Thursday’s public meeting with the Board of Health.
After the officials spoke, the large crowd in council chambers stood up and applauded, many looking relieved. Afterward, some members of the audience, including Diana Coltenback, stood in line to shake Hamilton's hand and give him a hug.
“We have an obligation to protect the town,” Hamilton told Patch at the conclusion of the meeting. “We have an image to uphold. We don’t want to discourage people from coming to Bloomfield. I commend the public for carrying out their democratic rights by speaking here and signing their petition. But the bottom line is, it shouldn’t have gotten to this point.”
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Coltenback, standing outside the municipal building with his wife Diana and several supporters from the “Save Memphis” campaign.
"Councilman Hamilton showed great courage, stepping forward and speaking openly about the situation. Let's hope that the Board of Health will see that there's absolutely no risk or liabilty to the township for Memphis coming to us. We can safely harbor him, like we've done with all pitbulls for many years. And hopefully we can all put this behind us and move forward.
"I hope they’ll let us adopt Memphis. We’ll see what happens on Thursday.”
Added Diana, "Memphis could be the catalyst for a lot of good change happening in the future in Bloomfield."