Springfield, MO to review pit bull ordinance

The Springfield, Missouri city council is set to review its ordinance related to pit bulls. The issue has been assigned to the council’s Plans and Policies Committee. Please take a moment to encourage the committee members to pursue a breed-neutral ordinance that puts the focus on irresponsible and neligent dog owners rather than a specific breed of dog. According to the article below, the total number of dog bites from all breeds of dogs is virtually unchanged since BSL has been in place in Springfield.

Plans and Policies Committee

Chair: Doug Burlison

Nick Ibarra

Thomas Bieker

Bob Stephens

Springfield City Council targets animal control

Members want task force to examine shelter funding, operation.
9:00 PM, Jun. 30, 2011

Springfield City Council plans an aggressive push to address animal control issues and wants a citizen task force to help decide what to do with the city’s animal shelter.

“It is not acceptable in its current form,” said Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky, who chairs council’s Community Involvement Committee.

That group met Tuesday with Councilman Doug Burlison’s Plans and Policies Committee to discuss several animal control and welfare issues, including continuing complaints related to feral cats and the city’s pit bull ordinance.

Staffing for animal control, administered by the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, also was discussed.

“We need to find an ongoing source of revenue to fund the shelter and fund the staff,” Rushefsky said. “I think we need to look at some kind of (pet) licensing and registration ordinance, pro and con.”

Those and other animal control issues have been lingering for several years, she said, calling for a focused effort to address them.

By the end of the meeting Tuesday, the group had divided the issues among several committees.

Community Involvement will continue looking at the issues of feral cats and animal welfare, while Plans and Policies will review the city’s ordinances related to dangerous animals and pit bulls.

The issue of animal licenses or fees likely will go to the Finance and Administration Committee.

The group also is asking the mayor to create a citizen task force to study the animal shelter problem and recommend a solution.

“Do we or don’t we, how do we fund it, and how do we run it?” Rushefsky said. “I want the community to come up with that answer.”

Councilman John Rush suggested having the task force consider all of the issues, but others worried it would be too much.

“If you give them too many issues all at once, I can’t see them getting anywhere in a reasonable amount of time,” said Councilman Nick Ibarra.

Health department staff suggested the group consider a regional approach.

“All the county communities would love a centralized shelter,” Health Director Kevin Gipson said.

“Are they willing to pay for it?” Rushefsky asked.

“I think there’s something that could be done,” Gipson answered, although he was unsure how significant that financial support might be.

Partnering with the local Humane Society or other groups also is possible, Gipson said, but there are challenges.

“We talked to the Humane Society,” Gipson said. “The problem is capacity — they can’t handle another 2,000 dogs a year.”

Other ideas, such as charging a license fee for pets, weren’t endorsed by all the councilmembers at the meeting. But Burlison — who advocated a repeal of the city’s breed-specific pit bull ordinance — asked that they at least be discussed. “It’s something I’d like you to consider.”

Gipson, however, argued against a repeal of the ordinance, as unpopular as it is in some quarters.

“It’s a labor-intensive ordinance and some would say very draconian … but the data showed this was a highly effective ordinance in preventing vicious dog attacks in Springfield,” Gipson said.

Reported dog bites by pit bulls and pit mixes dropped from 34 in 2005 to 15 in 2009, although the total number of dog bites from all breeds was almost unchanged. Vicious dog complaints dropped from 18 — including 12 pits — to one, which was not a pit bull.



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