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IA: Des Moines, update: BSL still being considered

Discussion in 'Breed Specific Legislation' started by Vicki, Oct 1, 2009.

  1. Vicki

    Vicki Administrator Administrator

    Dog breed, behavior are keys in ordinance debate

    September 29, 2009

    Breed or behavior?

    Those issues form the core of a debate brewing in Des Moines over proper regulations for dogs whose bloodlines or tendency to bite earn them the tag “vicious†under a local ordinance.

    City officials have called for a mix of tougher license fees, insurance requirements and owner training to strengthen Des Moines’ vicious-dog ordinance and reduce the number of attacks. Calls for the removal of language that defines pit bull-type breeds as vicious, however, have not been included in proposed changes.

    The city reported 182 dog bites spread among five breeds in 2006, the last year numbers were kept. Nearly 29 percent of those bites were attributed to pit bulls, city records show.

    The highest number of bites – 56 – came from Labrador retrievers, one of the most widely owned dogs registered in Des Moines.

    Key recommendations outlined in a Monday City Council workshop included:

    - Increasing liability insurance to $300,000 from $100,000 and requiring owners to show proof of 12 months of coverage.

    - Increasing the vicious-dog license fee to $35 from $15 for spayed and neutered dogs and $55 for dogs that are not altered.

    - Requiring mandatory training for dog owners whose animals are deemed “vicious by behavior.†Dog owners whose canines are deemed “vicious by breed†would not have to attend training classes unless they violated containment requirements outlined in the city ordinance.

    In the past, city animal control workers have had problems with owners of vicious dogs who do not reclaim impounded animals and instead get other dogs. Another proposed change in the ordinance would require owners of vicious dogs to pay animal shelter fees even if they don’t retrieve their animals.

    “We want to discourage that disposable-dog mentality,†said Sgt. Scott Raudabaugh, the city’s chief humane officer.

    A total ban on pit bulls was considered, Assistant City Manager Randy Wetmore said, but such action was deemed impractical.

    “If we were doing a complete ban, we would have personnel out looking for the dogs rather than taking care of public safety issues,†he said. “We didn’t think success (would be) very high, because it’s going to be really difficult to find all of those pit bulls that are out there.â€

    Tom Colvin, executive director of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, said city officials are “definitely going in the right direction.â€

    “The issues at hand are public safety, responsible pet ownership, and identifying and dealing properly with irresponsible pet ownership,†Colvin said. “That can either go by ignorance or intentionally having a vicious dog.â€

    Colvin said he’s concerned that the city’s current regulations have fostered a sense of distrust among even responsible pet owners, who might not want to register their dogs because they know that the animals would be automatically labeled “vicious.â€

    Colvin said he hoped the city would gravitate toward rules that do not single out breeds.

    The Animal Rescue League “has never been shy in its statement that it just does not believe in breed-specific legislation,†he said. “We believe any dog can bite and any dog can cause serious injury. Once you have breed-specific (rules), it’s easy to start adding breeds.â€

    Additional Facts

    What’s next?

    - City officials will speak with representatives from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa and other interested groups about possible changes in Des Moines’ vicious-dog ordinance.

    - City Manager Rick Clark said he hoped to have a policy recommendation before the City Council within a month.

    - A volunteer group composed of certified dog trainers, business owners and citizens has formed to offer input on Des Moines’ vicious-dog ordinance and promote responsible dog ownership. The group has created a Web site: ADAPT4DSM.

    Dog breed, behavior are keys in ordinance debate | DesMoinesRegister.com | The Des Moines Register

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