Monday, November 24, 2008

Perryville ordinance would ban pit bulls

Monday, November 24, 2008
By Bridget DiCosmo
Southeast Missourian

PERRYVILLE, Mo. — Though the city of Perryville held a public meeting last week to let concerned citizens voice their opinions on a proposed "dangerous dog" ordinance that would essentially ban ownership of pit bulls, it's a long way from being enacted, said Perryville Mayor Debbie Gahan.

The ordinance was first addressed during an open session when an alderman mentioned a man in his ward had expressed some worry about a neighbor who was keeping a pit bull dog tied to a tree. He was concerned the dog was vicious and might attack children playing in neighboring yards, Gahan said.

"After that, I start hearing some comments around town — you know, there was a buzz," Gahan said.

At Mayfair in Perryville, Gahan saw that local children had brought some puppies that looked like pit bulls. At a municipal training conference, Gahan said she saw a slide show of what had occurred in a Southwest Missouri town when humans were attacked by pit bull dogs in three separate incidents.

"It became crystal clear to me that this was becoming an issue," Gahan said.

Gahan said she thinks the issue need to be addressed, but right now, it's only something city officials are taking a look at.

Current city ordinances allow animal control to investigate and impound dogs if they are reported as vicious, said police chief Keith Tarillion.

"Most of the animal ordinances we have are very good," Tarillion said.

Tarillion said there has been discussion in the past about passing an ordinance requiring dogs to be licensed with the city of Perryville. Vaccinations, however, are required within city limits.

Perryville already has some ordinances on the books that, if enforced, could help them deal with any problems caused by irresponsible dog ownership, said Melanie Coy, a Cape Girardeau pit bull rescue advocate.

Cape Girardeau has an ordinance allowing animal control officers to microchip any animal picked up as a stray. The second time the animal is impounded, animal control could have it spayed or neutered, as long it was cleared with a veterinarian.

If the animal is a dog belonging to a "backyard breeder," the threat of loss of income usually prompts them to be more responsible about keeping the dog contained, said Requi Salter, director of the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri.

Coy said the tendency is to unfairly blame pit bulls for the irresponsible actions of owners.

Backyard breeders and people who keep pit bulls for fighting many times do not have any regard for health issues, looking at the dogs as a means of "pocket change or cheap sport," Coy said.

"Any dog is capable of violence — its more of a problem with the people," she said.

Many times, stereotyping pit bulls as dangerous only fuels the "macho, thug image," and those likely to not take proper care of the dogs may thrive on that, Coy said.

Tarillion said his department has not seen more problems with pit bulls than with other dog breeds.

"Every once in a while, we'll get a dog bite or report of a vicious dog, but it's a variety of types," Tarillion said.

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