116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Last week, pit bull owners in the Benton County town of Keystone pleaded with its city council to allow them to keep their family pets. The owners were given verbal warnings in July regarding a city ordinance that bans pit bulls within the city limits and a Benton County ordinance that bans dogs that have “the characteristics of pit bulls.”
The council took no action, but it should. Keystone should toss its breed ban ordinance and Benton County should follow suit.
And that’s because breed bans do not do not increase safety. Keystone and Benton Count should instead craft a smarter ordinance aimed at protecting its residents from dangerous dogs of all breeds and from the actions of irresponsible dog owners.
The tragedy of a 2-year-old girl attacked in June by a stray “pit-bull-style” dog should lead to a necessary review of city and county safety ordinances. But it should not be a pretext for forcing families to give up family pets that have done nothing wrong.
“The trend in prevention of dog bites continues to shift in favor of multifactorial approaches focusing on improved ownership and husbandry practices, better understanding of dog behavior, education of parents and children regarding safety around dogs, and consistent enforcement of dangerous dog/reckless owner ordinances in communities,” according to the National Canine Research Council. “Effective laws hold all dog owners responsible for the humane care, custody, and control of all dogs regardless of breed or type.”
The research council is among a long list of groups that oppose breed bans or “breed specific legislation.” They include the American Kennel Club, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Animal Control Association, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States.
“Breed-specific laws have a tendency to compromise rather than enhance public safety. When animal control resources are used to regulate or ban a certain breed, the focus is shifted away from effective enforcement of laws that have the best chances of making communities safer,” according to the ASPCA.
We agree. The state Humane Society has offered assistance to local governments to rewrite breed-specific ordinances, and local officials should take it.
Iowa lawmakers should also ban breed-specific ordinances in the state, following the lead of Minnesota, Illinois and South Dakota. That action would both create uniform rules statewide while also prompting communities to consider more effective safety ordinances.
That way, Keystone families and other Iowans can keep their family pets without fear of an unexpected and unwarranted knock on the door.
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