Pit bull stories, both good and bad, dominated Monday night’s community forum at the Roeland Park Community Center.
Most of the 25 people who spoke, however, favor removing the ban on pit bulls in favor of a breed-neutral ordinance with stricter penalties for dog owners who mistreat or neglect their dogs. Four people spoke against allowing pit bulls.
The city is considering lifting its more than 20-year ban and implementing animal ordinance revisions aimed at preventing dog attacks by focusing on the behavior of animal owners and their pets rather than specific breeds.
Under the proposed revisions, dog owners would not be allowed neglect dogs by chaining them outside. Stronger penalties would be invoked for owners of nuisance animals and the city would take a zero-tolerance approach toward dangerous or vicious dogs, with dogs being euthanized, restrained or removed from the city.
Geoff Geist, a Roeland Park resident and former pit bull owner, agreed with the revisions. “I support lifting the pit bull ban, which is the equivalent of dog racism,” he said. Geist said statistics show little correlation between fatal dog bites and the breed of dog.
Janelle Holland said she moved out of Roeland Park after being asked to get rid of her pit bull. “I was told I had to get rid of my pit bull, so I moved out of the city,” she said. “I would definitely support lifting the ban.”
Another proponent was Michelle Davis, co-founder of the KC Pet Project, which operates Kansas City’s animal shelter. Pit bulls make up half of the shelter’s dog population. “Dogs should be judged based on their behavior, not their breed,” she said. “It’s your job to protect citizens based on facts, not on anecdotal experiences.”
Also speaking in favor of lifting the ban was Valeria Higinio, pediatrician and Roeland Park resident. “I wanted to adopt a pit bull but discovered I can’t because I live in Roeland Park,” she said. “I would love to get one and probably will if the ban is lifted.”
Opposed to lifting the ban was Karen Stroud, a 50-year Roeland Park resident. Stroud said a 4-year-old girl was attacked by a pit bull in Roeland Park in 1984. The child was the granddaughter of a friend.
Also opposed was Richard Weber, a 35-year mail carrier in northeast Johnson County, who said he was attacked by 12 dogs during his career. He said a pit bull’s bite, pound per pressure, is worse than any other dog.
Others who opposed lifting the ban cited statistics indicating dog attacks have increased when other cities lifted their pit bull bans.
Cities that have lifted pit bull bans and instituted a breed-neutral approach include Topeka and Bonner Springs. Cities that still have pit bull bans include Overland Park, Leawood, Shawnee and Prairie Village. Kansas City, Kan. is considering dropping its ban.
City Administrator Aaron Otto said results of the forum will be discussed at the city’s Nov. 24 city council meeting.
Also discussed on Monday night was the possibility of the city inspecting the interior of rental properties. Currently, only exterior inspections are conducted. Revising the city’s trash can regulations was also discussed.