The pit bull — a mixed breed by definition and one that elicits mixed emotions — is now legal in Grandview.
On March 10, the city’s board of aldermen unanimously overturned a ban on the breed, which had gone into effect on July 26, 2005. Ward I Alderman Michael Allen proposed the amended ordinance.
“All we did was remove the verbiage about banning pit bulls, because when these cases went to court, a DNA test was required to prove it’s a pit bull,” Allen said. “The judge would say, ‘Let’s prove this was a pit bull.’ The test would come back as a bulldog, a mastiff or a terrier.
“What we had was a law on the books that they couldn’t enforce. Pit bulls aren’t a distinct breed; they’re a mix.”
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Riverside also has no ban or restriction on pit bulls, said Shane Moore, the city's animal control officer.
“It’s more the owner than the breed,” Moore said. “We had a pit bull ban, but we lifted it two to three years ago. We went to an amended dangerous dog ordinance.”
Liberty and Independence are the two cities that still have a ban on pit bulls; Kansas City, Mo., requires the dogs be spayed or neutered.
Independence banned pit bulls in 2006, motivated by an attack of a resident by a pack of pit bulls around 2005, city spokesman Craig Brenner said. Residents who owned pit bulls when the ordinance went into effect were allowed to keep them.
“The city’s position on it is we’re not looking to repeal the ban,” Brenner said. “Residents feel strongly about it. If they want to overturn it, they can go through the petition process. We want it to be community driven, not city driven.”
The American Kennel Club agrees that a pit bull is a mix by definition. The organization, based in Raleigh, N.C., recognizes the Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and considers the term “pit bull” an overarching descriptor that encompasses the three breeds, spokeswoman Hillary Prim said.
Rather than ban specific breeds, Allen said, “it’s much easier (when a dog is off leash) to do something to rectify that situation.”
“An important thing to note is this wasn’t hasty,” he said. “We looked at municipalities around us and consulted with Wayside Waifs. We modeled (the changed ordinance) after Belton and Raymore.”
Grandview’s standard procedure when a dog of any breed bites someone is that its animal control department takes the dog to Wayside Waifs for evaluation, Allen said. Then the owner must go through a process if the dog is deemed a vicious animal.
“I grew up with pit bulls,” he said. “If you train them correctly, they are just like any other dog.”
Jeff Borchardt of East Troy, Wis., tells a different story. On March 6, 2013, Borchardt’s 14-month-old son Daxton was fatally mauled by his babysitter’s two pit bulls.
Borchardt later started a nonprofit organization and a website at Daxtonsfriends.com to educate people about dog breeds. Borchardt supports banning the dogs, he said.
“Why in the world do (opponents of pit bull bans) not deny that pointers are bred to point, that herding dogs herd?” Borchardt said. “But suddenly, when we talk about pit bulls, oh no, no, they’re not aggressive.
“Why do they kill, maim and maul more humans and animals than all other breeds combined?” he said. “We as victims are re-victimized by (media coverage of pit bulls) all the time. When you say you want to hear from the other side – the other side is what got us here. It’s why my son is dead. Breed matters.”
Elimination of breed-specific bans “is definitely a larger national trend right now, both at local and state levels,” Prim said.
“People are understanding it’s about focusing on the responsibility of the owners,” she said. “Any dog, if it falls into the hands of an irresponsible owner, can become a dangerous dog. Breed-specific legislation is not effective and it’s also unfair.”
For every pit bull that makes the news, there are thousands of gentle dogs, she says.
Count Jeremy Danner of Kansas City among them. Danner owns an American Staffordshire named Marnie. She’s about 3 years old, and he’s owned one other pit bull.
“We have a son who’s 2 years old, and they’re great pals,” Danner said. “She follows him from room to room. She’s a super couch potato.”
Danner said he’d never seen aggressive behavior in either of the dogs. He’s also had friends who’ve owned pit bulls, and he’s volunteered at Wayside Waifs.
“I thought they were misunderstood and unfairly vilified,” he said. “If you look back to the history of the breed, you’ll find a lot references to ‘nanny dogs’ — companion dogs for children a lot of times, and for families. The breed was bred not to be aggressive toward humans.”
Casey Waugh, communications manager with Wayside Waifs in Kansas City, said it’s hard to tell how many pit bulls the organization has received in the past several years.
“The problem is that so many are mixes that it’s hard to say how many,” she said. “It’s not unusual to see them. They are just as playful and loving as any other dog.”
Kansas City Pet Project, Kansas City’s animal shelter, placed more than 1,000 pit bulls in 2014, spokeswoman Tori Fugate said.
“If you look out at the yards, it’s mostly pit bulls some days,” Fugate said.
The organization has a Canine Play Group Program in which it groups dogs according to social characteristics and gives them time to play together outside and acclimate socially, she said.
“We do this to enrich their lives and provide a little bit of training while they’re here,” she said. “A lot of dogs we get have never played with another dog. Dogs are kind of like people: We don’t necessarily like every person we meet. You see a variety of types of behavior.”
Kansas City Pet Project is the largest no-kill animal shelter in the area, Fugate said. It cared for more than 10,000 animals in 2014, and 93 percent of them were found new homes, returned to their owners or transferred to other shelters in the Kansas City area and other cities.
“We think (Grandview’s elimination of its ban is) great, because it automatically opens up more homes for pit bulls in our shelter,” she said. “There’s a lot of press out there for these guys that has been a little bias in the media. There are dogs that bite of all breeds. To actually single out breeds for bad behavior isn’t really practical. Some of our most social dogs, the ones that get along with every dog they see and love being around people and are the biggest players and goofballs, are pit bulls.”
Some area municipalities and whether they ban pit bulls:
Kansas City: Requires spaying or neutering.
North Kansas City: No
Kansas City: Requires spaying or neutering.
Blue Springs: No
Lee’s Summit: No