Last week, Indianapolis Councilman Mike Speedy wrote yet another article to the Indianapolis Star trying to justify his support for his own ordinance that would require all 'pit bull' type dogs to be licensed and spayed or neutered. Last month, the rest of the Indianapolis city council voted to table the proposed bill.
According to councilman Speedy, his "targeted solution" would build on the success that other cities, such as Little Rock, AR and San Francisco, have experienced with their ordinances.
It also completely unusual for well-meaning animal welfare people to support similar legislation and to wonder why so many people oppose legislation that would mandate the spay/neuter for pit bulls. In this case, Speedy himself even said he was working with a representative from the Humane Society of the United States, Desiree Bender*, who was helping him with the ordinance and talking about Little Rock's "success" with the ordinance.
* It should also be noted here that Bender also testified in favor of BSL/MSN in the city of Jacksonville, AR back in 2005. Her testimony is on page 4. Jacksonville eventually passed a full-on ban of 'pit bull' type dogs which led to nearly 100 dogs being killed in the small community of about 31,000 residents.
But what type of results do cities that pass a mandatory spay/neuter of pit bulls get from their ordinances? Because looking at their results may give us a good idea of what to expect when another city passes a similar ordinance.
To my knowledge, there are only about 3 cities with much of a track record on BSL/MSN to draw records from. I've spent a lot of time covering San Francisco and Kansas City, MO before -- so I won't spend time on those now. Essentially, San Francisco saw a significant increase in the number of dog bites following the law, and a small decrease in the number of pit bulls killed in the shelter following the ordinance*. Kansas City saw no change in bite numbers, but an 80% increase in the number of pit bulls killed in the 18 months following the ordinance passing.
* San Francisco being able to salvage their kill rates is no doubt at least partially attributed to having one of the oldest and most established low cost/no cost spay/neuter services in the country.
On May 20th of 2008, Little Rock began enforcing their ordinance - -that required a very expensive licensing fee for 'pit bulls', required all 'pit bulls' to be vaccinated, microchipped, altered and confined behind a fence or structure (ie, forbidding tethering). At the time, Fox 16 caught some excellent video of these "dangerous" dogs greeting animal control officers as they came to "rescue" the animals and take them from their homes (the video is in the upper right hand corner of the link provided -- Bender makes a guest appearance in this video as well).
So, what has the early "success" of the Little Rock ordinance look like? Not good if you're a 'pit bull'.
In 2007, the year before the ordinance passed, Little Rock 'euthanized' in its shelter 2,540 total dogs, of which, 823 (32.4%) were 'pit bulls'.
In 2008, with the new ordinance in affect for about 1/2 of the total number of dogs killed in the shelter rose to 2,847 -- of which, 1,188 (41.5%) were 'pit bulls' -- a 44% increase in total pit bulls killed in only 1/2 a year.*
* Interestingly, when I point out that last year, when Los Angeles has a 24% increase in total dog euthanasia following their first year with mandatory spay/neuter for all dogs, people have been quick to point to "the economy" as the reason for the increased killing. However, it's interesting that in Little Rock, total euthansia for all non-pit bull breeds actually decreased by about 3%, while 'pit bulls', who were the only ones affected by the spay/neuter, went up 44%. It is almost impossible to deny that in almost all cases, mandatory spay/neuter will cause an increase in impounds and kills among whatever category of animals in included.
For 2009, as of the end of May, they're tracking very close to 2008's year end numbers, with total dogs killed at 1,162 (on pace for 2,789) and 'pit bulls' at 490 (on pace for 1,176).
It's amazing how little of a fluke the Little Rock's kill numbers are -- as they mirror almost exactly what Kansas City saw when it passed a similar ordinance in 2006.
For the bite numbers, there is a bit of improvement.
2006 - 135 total bites, 47 by 'pit bulls' (35%)
2007 - 131 total bites , 42 by 'pit bulls (31%)
2008 (with ordinance in place) -- 118 total bites, 34 by 'pit bulls' (29%)
For 2009 - they are currently on pace for 116 total bites with 22% by 'pit bulls'.
It appears that dog bites were on a slight decline prior to the ordinance taking affect. With the ordinance in affect, bites dropped 10% overall -- with about equal drop in total bites among "pit bulls" and all others. For 2009, it looks like the pit bull numbers are going to continue to drop (likely due to the continued increased killing), but 'all others' will go up, likely as many of the people who have lost their dogs begin to get replacement dogs of different breeds.
So are these the results we are looking for? While cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul are passing breed neutral ordinances that are targeting irresponsible owners are having major decreases in bites -- with no increase in shelter killing. Meanwhile, Little Rock, the city Mike Speedy thinks is a "role model", has decreased their dog bites by less, while being on pace to kill nearly 800 'pit bulls' in the first 18 months of ordinance. While San Francisco, Speedy's other "success" story, saw a 13% increase in dog bites following the passing of their ordinance.
How are increased killing and high bite rates successes?
So why would Indianapolis WANT Mike Speedy's ordinance? Why would they want an ordinance that is costly to enforce (Little Rock's AC budget has gone up $100,000 (12%) over the past 4 years), that needs additional money for killing the influx of animals that come into the shelter, and is less affective than alternatives that are currently being worked on by the new director of animal control and the animal welfare community in his city?
And why would well-meaning animal welfare activists support an ordinance that has consistently led to hundreds of animals killed for now reason in a community with some mysterious hope that it just might work this time?
And why would the nation's largest animal "humane" organization, HSUS, have a staff member that would be continually pushing for an ordinance in communities that has consistently cost the lives of literally hundreds and often thousands of animals that are targeted by the laws?
It is really important to look at the true effects of ordinances that are passed by other communities -- not just the ordinances themselves -- if we really want to build successful communities that are both safe for animals, and safe for people.