In some parts of Missouri, lawmakers are more concerned about dogs that resemble what we call “pit bulls” than they are with shuttering puppy mills and penalizing the operators of those mills.
In a highly emotional meeting on October 2, the City Council of Springfield City, Missouri, approved a ban on dogs referred to as pit bulls by a five to four vote.
Supporters argued for passage due to an increase in the number and severity of dog bites allegedly attributed to pit bulls. Animal advocacy groups and owners of dogs that look like pit bulls suggest correctly that these changes punish the dog, not the irresponsible owner. They feel that the current local vicious and dangerous animal ordinance that covers any incidents involving a dog of any breed is a better city law.
One by one, Springfield City Council members spoke their piece. Some are in favor of banning the pit bull breed from city limits. “Advocating for the safety of our children in our community,” says Phyllis Ferguson.
“It’s a complicated and confusing issue. The proposed ordinance with the ban I believe is problematic,” says council member Richard Ollis. He says city resources are already thin. “Identifying a dog’s breed by visual inspection is challenging. Our animal control department is understaffed and does not have adequate resources to enforce our current ordinance let alone increasing regulation,” he says.
Of course, identifying a pit bull by visual appearance is actually impossible. It’s been demonstrated repeatedly (with genetic testing) that, in dogs, phenotype doesn’t necessarily match genotype—a way of saying what a dog looks like doesn’t necessarily match what a dog is. No matter, every dog is an individual, and looks do not in any way equate with temperament.
If the bill stands as is it will go into effect January 1, 2018. Any dogs not registered with the city by that date will not be allowed to legally live within city limits. They will, however, be impounded and given a temperament test. If the dog is deemed safe it will be put up for adoption, within or outside the city limits.
This option will not be available after January 1, 2019 when the ban goes into full effect. Any unregistered dogs may be seized and destroyed.
Failure to comply with the city ordinance will result in fines and possibly jail time.
Of course, as they should, animal welfare advocates will continue to fight against this newly passed law to profile without evidence, and to assume guilt without cause. What’s more: This has been studied, and breed bans don’t work.