Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tea might change pit bull ban

TEA - A rule banning three dog breeds from Tea city limits will remain on the books - for now.

The Tea City Council voted late Monday night to study the possibility of requiring the banned breeds to be spayed or neutered to decrease aggressive tendencies.

Such a revision would allow owners of American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers or American Staffordshire terriers within city limits to keep their animals.

Opponents of the breed ban offered the spaying/neutering requirement as one of several changes they said would be preferable to the current rules.

Lori Lockman, vice president of Pit Rescue of the Great Plains, said there is no evidence that the pit bull is a vicious breed.

"Pit bulls are no more dangerous than any other dog," Lockman said. "It's down to the owner."

Lockman said ordinances to prohibit chaining or tethering dogs, to prohibit guard dogs and to require that certain breeds be spayed or neutered would be more effective. Those steps decrease canine aggression, she said.

Rosie Quinn of Second Chance Rescue Center, said a breed ban is difficult to enforce and noted that several pit bulls live in Tea.

"I think you need to strengthen your vicious animal ordinances and drop your breed ban," she said.

Quinn and Lockman's suggestions initially were ignored. The council decided to reconsider possible changes after a closed-door session. The council did not discuss the ban during the private session, which it went into to discuss personnel issues.

The initial vote on amending the ordinance fell 3-2.

For the first vote, during which advocates for the pet owners were present, council members Chuck Ortmeier, Sid Munson and Herman Otten voted against amending the rules. Council members Brian Fowlds and Joe Weis voted to study possible changes. Council member Nathan Peterson was not present.

Fowlds said he was glad the council was willing to consider the changes.

"I was actually kind of surprised," he said. "I thought after it didn't pass and we didn't change the ordinance, we'd be done with it."

The debate began two weeks ago when Tea resident Megan Hes asked the council to reconsider the law. Hes owns two American pit bull terriers. Hes was unaware of the ban when she signed her lease, even though she cleared the dogs with her landlord.

Otten brought up the possibility of studying the revisions again after the executive session. The council voted 5-0 in favor of allowing Hes to keep the animals until the next council meeting Jan. 5. The council will take up possible revisions at that meeting.

The council ought to be able to gather enough facts by Jan. 5 to make a decision on moving forward with possible revisions, Otten said.

"If there's no support to change to the ordinance at that point, it will be done," he said.

During the debate at the beginning of the meeting, Otten said he understands that good pet owners such as Hes don't cause problems, but said he the rules are preventative.

"I'm not worried about the dog or the owner. I'm worried about the little kid that gets bit and gets killed," Otten said. "It doesn't do any good to take a dog away after it attacks."

Fowlds and Weis both said they don't feel that the ban is effective or fair.

"If they were scientifically proven to be a vicious man-killer, I wouldn't have any problem with banning them, but I haven't seen any evidence of that," Fowlds said.

The law might not always be fair to pet owners, Ortmeier said, but the 12-year-old rules were written with the right intentions.

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