Last night, the community of Bonner Springs, KS (a suburb of Kansas City; population 7500), voted unanimously to repeal its 24 year-old ban on pit bull type dogs in the community. Bonner Springs now joins Basehor, KS; Riverside, MO; and Osawatomie, KS; all suburban, Kansas City communities who have repealed their breed-specific laws in the past 8 months.
The repeal came after Titan, a dog owned by Debi Baker was taken from the Baker family home because he was declared to be a "pit bull". The Baker's were given 15 days to get rid of their family pet, and were really not given an opportunity to fight the ruling that he was a "pit bull."
While Titan was being boarded at a shelter in Lawrence, KS (where the family, including two young daughters would visit each weekend), the Baker's talked to the city council about a possible repeal of the law banning pit bulls. At the time, councilman Tom Stephens noted that "We don't want to hinder someone in their freedoms to have the animal of their choice, but we do have to always make sure that the safety of the community as a whole is the number one issue being addressed."
So the council opted, as many do, to form an advisory committee to look at the law as a whole and see if it was still necessary. Obviously, after a unanimous vote by the council, the committee deemed the law was not necessary.
This is all great news, but I think it's really important for everyone to read the letter the advisory committee in Bonner Springs sent to the entire council upon researching their decision.
The advisory group was made up of 12 members, including four city council members, a municipal judge, and two members of the police force, as well as other community leards. The information relayed by the committee not only shows that their information was well-researched and thoughtful, but also shows that they were quickly able to identify truthful, factual sources vs bogus ones. Here are some snippets from the document -- that you can read in its entirety here. Note that the recommendation to repeal the breed ban was unanimous also by the committee -- which is pretty telling. Bold added for emphasis is mine.
"In the fall of 1990, the City Council passed the current BSO (Breed Specific Ordinance) that banned pit bull breeds. I reached out to a former City Councilmember who was on the City Council at the time to understand the enactment. He related that Bonner Springs had not had any issues up to that time but that KCK (Kansas City, KS) experience issues involving dog fights and the use of pit bulls in those illegal endeavors. KCK decided to ban pit bulls in hopes that they could curtail the dog fights and the Bonner Springs City Council decided to follow suit...."
This is an interesting note, because many communities across the country banned pit bulls in the late 80s and early 90s after the promotion of stopping dog fighting actually caused dog fighting to be the "hysteria of the moment" and thus, many communities banned 'pit bulls' to stop a problem they didn't have. While dog fighting does exist, and is horrible, misdemeanor pet ownership laws that keep law-abiding citizens from owning certain types of pets have never been an effective way of preventing the felony crime of dog fighting.
"When we reached out to other municipalities...there was no specific pattern that could be found, not by population, geography, etc. The only consistencies we found were those who have BSOs seemed to have passed them based on being proactive (did not actually have an issue at the time of enactment) and those who chose not to have a BSO did so as they believed it did not actually address the real issue of dangerous animals as a whole."
Note, more cities passing laws to solve problems that did not exist.
"The research for articles and statisitcs presented difficulties as the majority were anti-BSOs. The few that were in favor of BSOs generally justified their positions with use of statistical data generated by DogsBite.org. Reasearch of this website found the data presented to be extremely distorted with may myths presented as facts.....Because no one, including the CDC, maintains statistics of attacks by breed, the party who maintains the website gathers statistics based on a review of newspaper articles for reports of dog attacks. This method would not be embraced by any statistician, as this would lead to greatly skewed and inaccurate results."
"In discussion with those whose jobs put them on the streets and potentially in harm's way, the majority of those individuals related that pit bulls weren't necessarily the issue but loose and not properly confined animals was the biggers issues. They believed that irresponsible owners and the allowance of dogs that have shown aggressive behaviors, not just pit bulls, are the real issues.....A proactive method to identify Dangerous Animals would better serve the safety of the community over a BSO."
There is more in the letter and worth the read. It's thoughful and well researched throughout.
Congrats to the residents of Bonner Springs who have elected city leaders who get it, and are making smart, thoughtful decisions on behalf of their community as they join the growing list of communities that are repealing old, breed-specific laws. With the wealth of new information that is available, it is great to see so many people using that information and making the necessary changes to breed neutral, behavior-based laws.