Springfield, MO's breed-specific law targeting pit bulls continued to provide embarrassment for the community this week.
Earlier this week, Jennifer Robinson visited the community of Springfield, MO and her dog, Captain, was seized from her because Captain was deemed to be a pit bull. According to Robinson, Captain is a 10 month old therapy dog that helps her deal with mental disabilities that she has from post tramatic stress disorder.
Robinson lives in Christian County which borders Springfield to the south, but when she visited Springfield with Captain, she wasn't in compliance with the Springfield law that requires pit bulls to be registered and microchipped.
Not only was Captain seized from Robinson, but authorities are now refusing to give Captain back to Robinson until she proves he lives outside of the community. According to reports by KSPR TV in Springfield, this may prove additionally difficult for Robinson because she was readmitted back into the hospital due to all of the stress that losing her dog has caused her.
If the dog is not reunited with Robinson, the dog will be killed by the shelter because the shelter does not allow pit bulls to leave the shelter alive unless they are reunited with owners, and, in fact, refuse to even work with rescue groups in order to help pit bulls leave the shelter safely.
The current situation with Robinson and Captain is yet another example of the failure of Springfield's breed-specific law, and a failure that has beeen ongoing for nearly a decade.
Officials have viamently stood by their breed-specific law -- and declared it a success. However, it really hasn't proven to be the case. In 2005, the year before the law was enacted, there were 102 dog bites in Springfield. In 2010, a 5 year report by KSPR reported there were 104. And, during that time, more than 1500 pit bulls were systematically slaughtered at the Springfield shelter - -or, basically, an average of 1 every single day for 5 years.
It's also worth noting that the community has increased the number of animal control officers by 33% since 2005 in order to help deal with the increased call volume.
So, the ordinance has cost more money, led to the killing of a lot of innocent dogs (including, potentially, Robinson's) and has led to no noticable decrease in dog bites.
Because of the challenges the law has caused, more thann a year ago, the Springfield City Council created an Animal Issues Task Force to re-evaluate the ordinance. In September of 2013, the Task Force submitted its recommendations to the council, which included, recommending that the city repeal it's breed-specific law and replace the law with a behavior-based law that deals with dangerous dogs, vicious dogs, and reckless owners.
However, as of last week, the Council has taken no action on the recommendations -- after 15 months of having them. This has caused a lot of frustration among advocates in the community and among task force members who dedicated their time to making the recommended changes only to have the city council not act on the recommendations.
Springfield continues to struggle with the impact of its breed-specific laws, and it continues to be an ineffective waste of money and resources for the citizen in their community.
If you are in the Springfield area, please urge your city council person to act upon the changes put forth by the Council Task force, to lift the mandatory death sentence for pit bulls that go into the shelter, and to help get Captain home.
Update: According to advocates in Springfield, Captain will be allowed to return home after he is neutered at an area clinic and Robinson will incur no fines.
Also, I realize that there may be some discussion about the role of Captain in Robinson's life. While there is often confusion between the terms "Service Dog", "Therapy Dog", "Support Dog", etc, I'll note that I do have huge issues with animals being taken from people when the dogs have done absolutely nothing wrong because of breed-specific policies, regardless of whether the dog is a service dog, or simply a pet.