Council says all pit bulls must go if ordinance passes

Sara Sedlacek · Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The West Liberty City Council heard a report from the Public Safety Committee regarding a breed-specific ordinance at its regular meeting last Tuesday, Sept. 2. The committee, which is made up of Mayor Clifford McFerren and Councilman Bob Hartman, met with City Manager Chris Ward, Police Chief P.J. Brewer, Animal Control Officer Duane Trimble and City Attorney Bill Sueppel to discuss a possible city-wide ban of pit bulls.

The ban was originally brought up at a council meeting last month as a result of several incidents involving pit bulls attacking or acting aggressively toward people. Brewer brought the incidents to the council’s attention and recommended an ordinance be created to remove the animals from West Liberty. Council agreed it was an issue worth researching.

The committee agreed no grandfather clause for current pit bull owners would be put in the proposed ordinance.

“There was a discussion and we were kind of torn about that issue,” said Hartman. “The logistics of grandfathering in was going to be too heavy for a city our size. Nobody is required to license their dogs and if we have a rush of new dogs coming in we wouldn’t know who had dogs before. It would just be kind of a nightmare to enforce.”

Included for the council’s review was information received from concerned citizens and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The ASPCA is opposed to breed-specific bans or canine profiling. The letter, drafted by the Chair of the American Bar Association’s Dangerous Dog Subcommittee and an employee of the ASPCA, stated that the problem of dangerous dogs cannot be fixed with a breed-specific ban.

“The problem of dangerous dogs is not remedied by the quick fix of breed-discriminatory laws,” the letter read. “All dogs can bite. Studies of pre and post breed ban dog bite rates in the United Kingdom and Spain concluded that their pit bull breed ban had no effect whatsoever on reducing dog bites. Indeed, Hiawatha, Iowa just repealed their pit bull ban because of identification problems and expense.”

The letter continued, offering council assistance in drafting a different ordinance that would target reckless owners and dangerous dogs, not just pit bulls.

Other documents, including information about the pit bull ban in Maquoketa, were given in support of the ban.

“All the information is very good and much appreciated,” said McFerren. “We do have a vicious dog ordinance and we do have a leash law already on the books but this is definitely a breed-specific ordinance.”

Council asked Ward and Sueppel to draft an ordinance which will be brought to council at a later date.
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