Cities and towns would be prohibited from passing laws that target specific breeds of dogs under legislation debated Tuesday in a Missouri Senate committee.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Brian Nieves, allows for local ordinances prohibiting dogs from running at large, as long as the regulation is not specific to breeds of dogs. If passed, it would undo any local ordinances already in place, including one in Kansas City that mandates pit bulls be spayed or neutered.
Courtney Thomas, president of Great Plains SPCA, said breed-specific laws are ineffective.
“When we label dogs as dangerous simply based on their breed, makeup and appearance, we deflect where the attention needs to be, which is addressing dangerous dogs regardless of the breed,” she said.
There are no studies that prove pit bulls are more dangerous, Thomas said, but there are “countless studies that prove the conditions in which animals live, the way they are treated by their owners and the medical care they receive does predict behavior.”
Policy should be based on behavior, not breed, she said.
Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, argued the bill would actually take away a municipality’s ability to protect breeds like pit bulls, which are the type of dog most often abused and neglected.
While pit bulls only make up 6 percent of the dog population, shelters are full of pit bulls, Baker said. They also represent a disproportionate number of reported dog bites.
“Many ordinances that will be taken away by this bill are designed to protect these dogs,” he said.
Instead of prohibiting all breed-specific ordinances, Baker said, a possible compromise might be to simply prohibit outright bans on specific breeds.