Northeast Joco

Prairie Village council delays decision on pit bull ban until Sept. 5

Prairie Village is one of three cities in Johnson County that bans pit bulls.
Prairie Village is one of three cities in Johnson County that bans pit bulls. File photo

Those pushing Prairie Village to overturn the city’s 28-year-old ban on pit bull-type dogs will have to wait a little longer to see if they get their wish.

The City Council held a public hearing Monday on the law banning the possession within city limits of Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers or dogs having the appearance or characteristics of those breeds.

A steady stream of people told the council that the law was outmoded, discriminatory, and wasted city resources targeting the animals when authorities should be going after irresponsible pet owners.

“People are being forced to surrender or euthanize their own family pets based solely on the dog’s physical characteristics,” said resident Ashley Silence, who said she is active with animal rescue groups. “It is heartbreaking knowing I cannot provide a home for any of these dogs.”

There were so many speakers, in fact, that they used up the time the council had set aside to discuss the law. Councilman Ted Odell, who oversaw the hearing, said the issue will be brought back at the board’s Sept. 5 meeting.

Prairie Village is one of only three cities in Johnson County that still has a pit bull ban on the books. Following comments from a number of residents this year, the council agreed to revisit the ban, as well as reconsider the city’s process for evaluating and regulating dogs that have been labeled “dangerous” following attacks on people or other animals.

Many of those speakers, including dog trainers, veterinarians and pet sitters, returned Monday and spoke fondly of pit bulls they’ve known, saying they are naturally loving and obedient when raised correctly.

They said there was no scientific evidence showing that pit bulls are inherently more aggressive or more likely to attack people or other animals than other breeds of dog. In fact, several people said they have received more problems from supposedly “safe” dogs like Jack Russell terriers and Labrador retrievers.

“When we label dogs dangerous just based on their breed makeup and appearance we deflect where the attention should be, which is addressing all dangerous dogs regardless of the breed,” said Courtney Thomas, chief executive of Great Plains SPCA, which operates several local animal shelters.

Other speakers said the ordinance keeps families that would like to live in Prairie Village from moving in.

Jenne Bearde, who now lives in Spring Hill, tearfully told the council about having to move out of Prairie Village after repeated visits from animal control officers because people thought her boxer terrier mix dogs were pit bulls.

“After six months of harassment and non-stop drop ins, we chose to move out of your city because of this ban,” said Bearde, who now owns a pit bull named Ronnie. “We didn’t want to worry any more that our dogs would be taken away for looking like a pit bull.”

Out of the 31 people who spoke during the hearing Monday, only one supported keeping the law intact.

Patty Lundgren, of Kansas City, said that pit bulls were capable of seriously injuring or killing people regardless of how well they were raised and said a neighbor’s pit bull tore through an adjoining fence and killed her mother-in-law’s Yorkshire terrier in 2010.

“These dogs can attack and leave people with horrible injuries,” Lundgren said. “Unless there’s some way to hold the owner accountable, when a pit bull or other dangerous breed attacks and maims or kills someone, they ought to be required to carry some sort of liability insurance.”

In other business

▪ The council voted 9-1 to approve a contract with Blue Springs-based National Streetscape Inc. to renovate the front courtyard of City Hall. The $414,300 project includes raising the current, dilapidated courtyard to provide unified entry to City Hall and the city police department, as well as add ramps and other improvements to make the buildings more accessible to the disabled.

▪ Council members also tabled a formal vote on buying more than 2,000 streetlights from Kansas City Power & Light and outfitting them with LEDs until they get additional information on the costs for various types of LED bulbs. The council voted unanimously last month to go forward with the project and sell bonds to pay the estimated $3.2 million price tag.

▪ The council voted 8-2 to continue negotiating with Republic Services to take over the city’s $1.5 million trash pickup contract.

Council members recently chose chose to replace current hauler Deffenbaugh Industries Inc. with Republic, which proposes charging city residents $18.44 a month, or $3.94 more than what they pay now through city assessments.

Several bidders submitted revised bids in the last two weeks with prices lower than Republic’s, but the council declined to consider them Monday.

David Twiddy: