A Garden City attorney has asked the city commission to re-evaluate the cities breed discriminatory law, which was passed in 2002.
The current law labels the American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier, and mixed breeds that have “the appearance of being predominantly one of those three breeds” as automatically vicious.
This designation carries with it requirements that must be met if the dog is to be kept in the city. From the current city code:
“The owner of a vicious dog shall be subject to the following requirements:
(1)Confinement. All vicious dogs shall be securely confined indoors or in an enclosed and locked pen or structure upon the premises of the owner. The pen or structure must have minimum dimensions of five feet by ten feet and must have secure sides and a secure top attached to the sides. If no bottom is secured to the sides, the sides must be embedded into the ground no less than two feet. All pens or structures must be adequately lighted and kept clean and sanitary. The enclosure must also protect the dog from the elements.
(2)Leash and muzzle. The owner of a vicious dog shall not allow the dog to go outside its kennel, pen, or structure unless the dog is muzzled, restrained by a chain or leash not more than four feet in length, and under the physical control of a person. The muzzle must not cause injury to the dog or interfere with its vision or respiration but must prevent the dog from biting any human or animal.
(3)Signs. The owner of a vicious dog shall display in a prominent place on the owner’s premises a clearly visible warning sign indicating that there is a vicious dog on the premises. The sign must be readable from the public highway, street, or thoroughfare. The owner shall also display a sign with a symbol warning children of the presence of a vicious dog. Similar signs shall be posted on the dog’s kennel, pen, or enclosed structure.”
These things are also required of dogs, who based on their behavior, have been declared vicious. The request is to remove the breed based language from the law, leaving the vicious dog ordinance in place.
City officials have agreed that since the law had not been evaluated in over ten years that it would be worth evaluating now.
The city attorney is drafting changes to the ordinance and the changes will be brought forward at an upcoming meeting that has yet to be given a date.
Residents are encouraged to reach out to the commission to support a repeal. Please write to encourage the commission to remove the breed discriminatory language and to strengthen the breed neutral portion of the law to keep the community safe. There are ways in which the breed neutral portion of the law can be strengthened. For example, there is currently no definition of a potentially dangerous dog. A dog is either vicious or it isn’t. Having more nuanced categories allows officials to do something about a dog that may not be vicious but is not being kept in the safest way possible in the community. A reckless owner ordinance would also be a fantastic replacement for the breed discriminatory law, because it puts continued responsibility on the owner, even after they may get rid of a dog that has been declared vicious.
Be polite, factual and thank the commission for being willing to discuss the issue.