Update: August 18, 2006: It appears Independence will move forward with a pit bull ban.
The city of Independence is on the verge of tough new regulations on pit bulls and a policy that, in theory, would have the city free of pit bulls in a few years.
In theory" is the key phrase because the entire policy will rest on the honor system, and that just doesn't always work. As we have said in this space before, the key issue is enforcement.
The City Council is set to vote Monday to bar new pit bulls from coming into the city. Pit bulls already here can stay but under several new rules: For starters, owners will need a fence six feet high - and two feet below ground - to confine the dogs, or they'll have to build a separate roofed structure to hold the dogs. In addition, owners will have to have their pit bulls spayed or neutered, get a costly annual license, have up-to-date shots, post a "dog on premises" sign, have proof of insurance in case of an attack, and muzzle their pets when out on a leash. That's not a ban, but for a lot of people - consider the expense and hassle - it might serve the same purpose.
If everyone played by these new rules, it would mean a significant improvement in public safety. Dog attacks - and pit bulls figure prominently in that - are a pressing issue in Independence and elsewhere. This issue has festered for years, but the May 4 attacks and other incidents have brought this to a head. That's why Independence is just one of several area communities looking at pit bull rules. Lee's Summit, for example, appears headed toward a ban.
As has been pointed out many times, the problem here is usually with owners rather than the breed. The city has a leash law and a dangerous-dog ordinance. Strict enforcement of them would prevent many of these problems. And yet this issue has gone unresolved for far too long. We cannot have a city in which people are afraid to walk down the sidewalk or go outside to mow the lawn.
City officials, however, need to outline specifically how enforcement of all these new rules will be improved. Otherwise, law-abiding dog owners will pay to play by the rules, and others will ignore the rules, ignore public safety and continue to cause serious injuries.
Update: June 26, 2006: The Independence City Council tonight could see the first drafts of possible ordinances to deal with dangerous dogs, specifically pit bulls. In a memo to Mayor Don Reimal, City Manager Robert Heacock said he was going to make a presentation dealing with dangerous dogs tonight.
That presentation, the memo said, is meant to "outline recommended potential steps" that the council could take as it possibly prepares to write a new ordinance.
Heacock would not comment this morning on what he was going to recommend to the council, saying that he wants the council to see the options first.
Options before the council include a ban of pit bulls, a citywide licensing and fee program, and requiring microchipping for all cats and dogs.
The council could adopt any number of options that have also been recommended by residents who have spoken at a number of public hearings held on the subject in the past two months.
The council's meeting, which is open to the public but not open to public comment, is at 6 tonight in the council chambers.http://www.examiner.net/stories/062606/n
Update: June 17, 2006: From http://www.rott-n-chatter.com/rottweiler
to be as bipartisan as possible, and people were definitely responding to the
information about BSL being costly and ineffective, but it's entirely possible they will push BSL
because of the victims' stories that were heard by Council
The Council leader did say they looked very intensely
at the law recently passed in Springfield. And at the end of the meeting he reiterated,
we are going to give serious consideration to all this, the safety of the community is
our main concern
Update: June 5, 2006: Was not on June 5 agenda.
Update: June 1, 2006: Advisory Committee heard public commentary on the issue. They will discuss reccommendations tonight.
Mayor Don Reimal
Councilmember Will Swoffer
Councilmember Renee Paluka
Councilmember Jim Page
Councilmember Jim Schultz
Councilmember Lucy Young (no contact information)
The City Council meets weekly on Mondays, beginning at 6:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers in City Hall, 111 E Maple, Independence.
Office of the City Council
Sheila Saxton Council Aide
From a recent article (You have to register to view it, so I am just copying a portion of it here)
The attacks have evoked strong emotions from Independence residents, said 4th District City Council Member Jim Page.
Page, who represents the southwest portion of the city, said he's received a number of calls since the attacks.
"They have been 100 percent for at least a minimum of some type of heavy registration fee if not putting a ban on ownership entirely inside the city," Page said. "I have not had one call that has been pro-pit bull."
Dixon agrees pit bulls do not belong inside the city. Dixon doubts walking, one of his favorite pastimes, will ever be the same.
"I don't know why anyone would want an animal that would do that kind of damage," Dixon said.
Page said he's received letters from citizens concerned about pit bulls in their own neighborhood.
He said City Council would probably take steps to address the concerns soon. Page said he was angry when he heard about the attacks.
|Springfield's pit bull ordinance
Independence is looking to Springfield's new pit bull ordinance as a model for a similar law the city is looking to pass here. The Springfield law requires owners to register their dogs with the city as well as a litany of other requirements including:
- At the time of registration, owners must provide proof of rabies vaccination for the pit bull.
- Owners must also pay an annual registration fee of $50 for each pit bull.
- Owners must have a microchip inserted under the dog's skin so it can be identified if lost or found by animal control.
- Owners must ensure the dog is spayed or neutered, unless it is AKC or UKC registered and actively competing.
- Owners must keep the dog in a secured enclosure while on owner's property.
- Owners must post a sign at least 8"x10" stating "Pit Bull Dog" at each entrance to owner's property.
- Owners must keep the pit bull leashed and muzzled while not on the owner's property.
- Owners must notify officials within five days if the pit bull is lost, stolen, dies or has puppies.
- New litters of puppies must be removed from city limits or taken to the Springfield Animal Shelter unless they are registered.
The Springfield ordinance will take full effect on Oct. 16.
Source: Springfield City Code and Springfield Council Ordinance 2006-113
"We want to hear the input from those who have had encounters and those who own these kinds of dogs," said Howard Braby, chairman of the advisory board. "It is not going to be an easy decision."
On May 15 the City Council directed the board to begin an investigation into any changes the city should make to the current city ordinances that deal with dangerous dogs. Recommendations thus far have ranged from banning specific breeds to simply creating a way to register and track them. No plan or ordinance has been formally created yet.
"At this point we are not sure what we will end up with," Braby said. "But we want input as to where the community wants to go."
"My concern with a dog ordinance is that if the people who were attacked were children, then we would be dealing with deaths and not just injuries," Braby said. "We are going to have to look at the what would be good for both children and adults in our neighborhoods."
City Manager Robert Heacock and Braby said through their research the city is looking not so much toward an all-out ban. Rather, they said, they want to model a pit bull registration ordinance after one passed in Springfield, Mo., in the spring.
When a pit bull attacked a 3-year-old in Springfield, the city there moved quickly to control what Springfield's Assistant Director of Health Ron Boyer called a "citywide problem."
"To give a little context. In the year 2000 we picked up less than a 100 pit bulls running wild," Boyer said. "In 2005 we picked up over 500." According to the U.S. census, Springfield's population is around 151,000, while Independence is 114,000.
In April, the Springfield city council passed a law that required all pit bull owners to register their dogs with the city and have a microchip implanted under the dog's skin so it can be identified by any health or animal control official who might come in contact with the dog.
The Springfield law also requires that any time a pit bull is out in public, it must be on a leash and muzzled at all times.
Boyer said that despite the amount of research and public input that went into creating the pit bull registration law there, some residents have started an initiative to overturn the law.
"We thought we had a very reasonable pit bull ordinance," Boyer said. "But just this last week we had a petition turned in to have it sent to the voters or overturned."
Springfield residents turned in more than 2,400 signatures that -- if approved by the city clerk -- could force the Springfield city council to put the law up for a vote in August.
Although residents have started a new campaign to remove the Springfield law, Boyer said similar breed-specific laws have started to pop up around the country.
"Our research shows that 230 cities in the country have some kind of breed specific ordinance," Boyer said. "And 32 states have some form of registration for specific breeds. We believe this is the trend."
Although cities and municipalities might be following this trend after attacks by dogs, Melissa Zarda, an advocate for pit bull rights with a number of Kansas City animal organizations, said passing new laws does not solve the problem.
"We can show them studies and statistics where breed specific laws do not lead to the increase in community safety," Zarda said. "What cities need to do is enforce the leash laws and ordinances already on the books."
Zarda pointed to a study conducted in St. Charles County, Md., where the county passed a ban on pit bulls. The county spent $500,000 in a year to enforce the new law and did not have any reduction in the number of bites caused by pit bulls, Zarda said. "We feel that breed specific legislation is ineffective."
Individuals who wanted to speak before the advisory board had to sign up with the city clerk's office before noon on Tuesday. If any spots are still available before the meeting, there will be a sign up table before the meeting from 5-5:30 p.m.
If all of the five-minute time slots are filled, residents can still file written responses with the advisory board that will be given to the Health Department administrative staff after the meeting.
Reach Mike Ekey at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 816-350-6324.