Editorials

Will KCK be the next city to finally lift its ban on pit bulls?

Patrick Mahomes and his pit bull

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on his pit bull Steel
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Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on his pit bull Steel

For nearly 30 years, Wyandotte County has prohibited anyone from owning a pit bull. To the dismay of dog lovers, the ban includes any canine with the appearance and characteristics of a pit bull, such as a square head and bulky body.

But after decades of singling out pit bulls, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas should do the right thing and focus more broadly on dangerous dogs. The Unified Government’s standing committee on public safety is expected to vote this week on an ordinance that would repeal the pit bull ban enacted in 1990.

If passed in committee, the Unified Government’s Board of Commissioners should abandon the breed-specific ban and continue to enforce existing dangerous and vicious dog ordinances that hold owners responsible for their animals’ behavior.

“A pit bull is just another pet,” said Michelle Rivera, CEO of Spay and Neuter Kansas City. “They shouldn’t be penalized because of its breed.”

Across the metro area, municipalities have slowly begun to move away from overreaching breed-specific laws that are costly to enforce and unfair to dog owners.

In April, Liberty voters nixed the city’s ban. It was the first ballot initiative in the area to rescind a prohibition on pit bulls.

Last year, Eudora, Kansas, repealed its 10-year-old ban on pit bull-type dogs, replacing it with a comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous animal ordinance. In 2015, Roeland Park scrapped its decades-long ban. No pit bull attacks have been reported there since the restriction was lifted.

Much like Eudora, Wyandotte County already has a law in place that effectively holds owners responsible for dangerous, vicious and nuisance animals. There is little need for a breed-specific ban if that ordinance is enforced.

Advocates for repealing the bans correctly argue that pit bull restrictions are outdated and arbitrary.

Pit bulls have earned a reputation for aggressiveness, and vicious attacks by the breed are well-documented. But poorly trained pit bulls aren’t the only dogs that could pose a danger.

Since January 2017, a total of 132 dog bites have been reported to the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department’s animal services unit. Of those, only 29 were committed by pit bull terriers. A combination of Chihuahuas, Yorkshires, German Shepherds and other breeds were responsible for more than 100 bites.

Banning just one breed doesn’t make much sense when other dogs are prone to attack. And corralling and housing these banned animals is a pricey endeavor. The cost to house, treat and care for one pit bull terrier for 72 days in Wyandotte County’s animal kennel is about $1,300. The animal services department spends about 24% of its $1 million budget on costs related to breed-specific violations.

In essence, “we spend $240,000 on one particular animal,” said repeal proponent Jane Philbrook, Wyandotte County District 8 Commissioner. “We need to concentrate on all dogs.”

Wyandotte County could reduce the risk of dog bites and prevent serious attacks with better enforcement of its existing breed-neutral ordinance.

The Unified Government should update its approach to dangerous canines. And regardless of breed, dog owners should bear responsibility for their pets’ behavior.

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