116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
What would you do if someone showed up at your home late one evening and told you that you had 10 days to remove your family dog from town even though he or she had done nothing wrong? If you are like the two of us, you would first try everything you could to keep your family pet and to make sure you had somewhere safe lined up to take your dog if you couldn’t stop it from happening. And second, you would try to find out why and fix it.
Here in Iowa, it’s hard to imagine that happening. Our state has taken clear steps protecting individuals to make their own decisions about their own lives. Our state’s leaders have worked hard to protect Iowans from mandates. It’s easier than ever to lead a free life in Iowa, and yet, a small minority of Iowa communities insist on turning their residents — both new and old — away unless their families conform.
But that’s exactly what happened to us. Someone gave the Benton County Sheriff’s Department a list of families in Keystone that “maybe had pit bulls.” A deputy showed up at our front doors and told us to get rid of our dogs.
Our city of Keystone, along with Benton County, are two communities in Iowa that prohibit certain breeds of dogs — in our specific instance, the targeted “breed” includes any types of dogs somewhat commonly known as “pit bulls.” At least, Keystone does. Benton County goes further and says if your dog even resembles a “pit bull” he is banned from the county.
This is a gross overreach of the government’s authority, an attempt to control our lives, and a massive infringement of our families’ right to property — in this case, that “property” being the dog we have decided is best for our families. Why on earth is our local government dictating what property we are allowed to own?
These bans are also, plain and simply, bad public policy. At a time when rural Iowa seems to be shrinking and businesses are having a tough time attracting workers, why would our rural communities push families away? Even if you think your dog doesn’t look like a “pit bull,” there are other communities in Iowa that ban other dogs. Rottweilers, Dobermans, Akitas, Great Danes, Chows and Huskies. Fairfield even prohibits dogs “dogs weighing in excess of one hundred pounds.”
Since the news of our ordeal broke, we’ve been contacted by so many families and organizations from around the United States. We’ve learned so much — including the fact that almost no legal, health, safety, animal, or veterinary organization supports breed bans. That’s because they don’t work. They don’t protect communities. But strong and breed-neutral dangerous dog laws do. And that’s why you’ve seen communities around the state — even those with bans that are 20 years old — drop them.
We’re writing today to publicly ask our local elected officials to put a stop to this. And we’re asking our state lawmakers to do the same. Two years in a row legislation was introduced to end breed bans. And two years in a row that legislation was ignored. We’re asking for action from you on the first day of the 2023 session. File the bill, pass it and protect our right to own our dogs. Help us keep our families together, no matter where in Iowa we call home.
On Aug. 4, we asked the Keystone council to repeal the ban. The council took no action. Our families are still waiting to find out if we’re welcome in this community. We hope so.”
Gabby Gormley and MaKinzie Taylor Brecht live in Keystone.