Last week, news hit that several members of the Springfield City Council are taking a look at some animal control policies -- including the city's current breed-specific law - and a potential new shelter for the community.
In 2006, Springfield passed a law that requires all 'pit bulls' to be micro-chipped, muzzled, spayed/neutered and a host of other restrictions.
Two groups got together -- the Plans and Policies committe and the Community Involvement Committee -- to discuss various animal-related issues in the city; but eventually all talk seemed to center around the city's pit bull ordinance and the city animal shelter.
Councilman Doug Burlison, who two years ago tried to repeal the 'pit bull' ordinance -- calling it unenforceable - is the chair of the Plans and Policies Committee. Former Councilwoman Mary Collette, who was on the council when the law passed and has been a vocal opponent of the ordinance, is also providing input. Collette thinks the city should replace the breed-specific ordinance with a vicious animal ordinance that would cover all dangerous animals -- not just pit bulls.
Director of the Springfield - Greene County Health Department Kevin Gipson (who's department is responsible for enforcing the codes) notes that he never liked the breed-specific ordinance -- but says it has done good in the city.
So with that in mind, I thought I'd take a look at the actual numbers in the city to see how things are working (and thanks to the folks at the Greene County Health Department for being so easy to work with on getting the numbers).
The first year I have data for is 2005 -- which is the most recent "clean" year. The pit bull ordinance was passed in 2006. The 2010 numbers are through September only (I've put the 'projected' number in parenthesis just for comparison purposes if the same pace holds up over the last 3 months of the year).
Dogs Impounded Total Dogs Pits & Mixes
2005 2289 502
2006 2079 362
2007 2366 252
2008 2863 204
2009 2660 214
2010 1740 (2320) 123 (164)
So according to their statistics, impounds are generally trending upward for all dogs (with a slight downturn in 2010) while the number 'pit bulls' impounded has been on the decline. This could be because people have opted to get different breeds of dogs because of all of the restrictions, or moved out of town, or because of how they're identifying mixes -- or some combination of all of those things. But more animals are being impounded than before the ordinance.
Dog Bites Total Dogs Pits & Mixes
2005 102 34
2006 98 26
2007 87 23
2008 89 15
2009 103 15
2010 83 (111) 7 (9)
So there was an initial decrease in total dog bites in the community, numbers have begun to go back up again over the past couple of years. The number of bites by 'pit bulls' has continued to decrease....which means that bites by other breeds are going up as irresponsible/problem owners likely switched to other types of dogs that they owned.
The shelter has been doing an improved job of getting dogs and cats into rescue. The shelter itself doesn't do adoptions (they claim they don't have the capacity or space to do so) but they have been more active in working with rescue groups to get the animals out of the shelter -- improving rescue rates from 45% to 71% for dogs from 2005 to 2009 and from 20% to 41% for cats over the same time period.
Note that virtually all 'pit bulls' are still killed at the shelter as the shelter has a policy against transfering 'pit bulls' to rescues and the council voted 2 years ago against a proposal to force a shelter policy change.
The Health Department officials and the council seem to realize that the city is getting a lot of criticism for their 'pit bull' ordinance, along with their policy of no adoptions from the shelter. It is excellent that several members of the council seem to be looking at improving this in the city -- which would require more funding for animal control and likely money for a new shelter. They are looking at needing $5 million for a new shelter -- some of which they'd like to get from private donations. One option might be to ask Bob Barker for some help -- Barker is vocal supporter of the animal rights movement, and graduated from Drury College in Springfield - and gave $1 million to start a foundation to build an animal rights curriculum at Drury.
If you live in or around the Springfield area, please write or talk to your city council member and let them know that changing their pit bull policies are important for the city.