I'm late getting on this story because I was out of town most of last week. However, I wanted to double back because I think there is a lot of mis-informtion out there from the Omaha media that I want to tighten up.
Last week, a 15 month old girl was attacked by a dog that is described as a 'pit bull' when her mom was walking down the street with her and her brother in tow in a wagon. The dog was out being walked by its owner and got free and attacked the family...with the young girl receiving the brunt of the attack.
Like all pit bull attacks it seems, the question then almost instantly goes to "should we ban them". This is never the response when a Lab, Golden Retriever or German Shepherd bites...only pit bulls. And so the media is there to stir the controversy. What is disturbing is the 1/2 truths they are using to stir the pot.
So most of the media outlets are using Council Bluffs (which is right across the river from Omaha) as their case study of whether or not a ban would be an effective way to go. According to this source, and this one the ban in Council Bluffs is working well. The stories both point to the decrease in bites by 'pit bulls' as proof that the ordinance is working. Which is only part of the story. And I want people to know the ENTIRE story, because I've never feared people getting their information from multiple sources because if people get the entire, accurate picture of what is going on out there, they'll side that this type of legislation will not work.
So let's look at Council Bluff's bite numbers to see what's going on there. These numbers were emailed to me by the animal control director there, so they'll be consistent with anything else that he would send out.
2003 (no ban in place):
Total Dog Bites: 85
Bites by Pit Bulls: 15
Bites by ALL other breeds: 70
Lab Bites: 4
Boxer Bites: 1
German Shepherd Bites: 5
2004 was a really bad year in Council Bluffs, and what ended up creating their breed Ban:
Total Dog Bites: 131 (54% increase)
Pit Bull Bites: 29 (93% increase)
All other Dog Bites: 102 (46% increase)
Labs: 14 (250% increase)
Boxers: 1 (flat)
German Shepherds: 12 (140% increase)
So in 2005, they passed BSL, marking the first year of their pit bull ban:
Total Dog Bites: 115
Pit Bull Bites: 12
All other dog bites: 103
Lab Bites: 20
Boxer Bites: 1
German Shepherd Bites: 11
So overall, they decrease pit bull bites, but all others remained at their record high levels.
Total Dog Bites: 132
Pit Bull Bites: 6
All other Dog Bites: 126 (ouch! -- that's a 24% increase)
Lab Bites: 23
German Shepherds: 12
Total Dog Bites: 98 (finally a decrease, still not to 2003 pre-ban levels, but we're not at record highs either)P
Pit Bull Bites: 2
All other breeds: 96
German Shepherds: 13
It is highly annoying that the entire Omaha media market is insisting on feeding the public only a portion of the information that is available on the Council Bluffs pit bull ban as Council Bluffs is Omaha's closest neighbor. It makes you wonder (or not) what their agenda might be. Of COURSE their pit bull bites went down. They've killed hundreds, if not thousands of those types of dogs, and hundreds more owners have fled the city. The question shouldn't be "did pit bull bites go down", but "did public safety improve?"
Council Bluffs instituted their ban after a really bad 2004 -- a year which was an outlier from previous years. For two straight years while enforcing the ban, they saw their bite numbers stay near, or exceed, their really bad 2004. 2007 has seen a minor correction downward, but still well above their "normal" levels of 2003 and before. The city has stated that they have not had another breed take the place of the biting pit bulls...but what they have seen is an overall increase in several different breeds of dogs that have increased bite rates.
Omaha had a very scary attack. They plan to look into policies to improve public safety. There are many case studies out there...like Calgary for instance, that highlight effective policies to improve overall public saftey. But they should look at it as a public safety issue, instead of a pit bull issue...because what good is getting rid of pit bull bites if you don't have a net increase in public safety? More to come on this I'm sure.
Update: Looks like the mayor has formed a committee including members of the police force, the local humane society, a member of the mayor's office and city council members.