No decline in dog bites since pit bull ban
Story date: July 3, 2011
Animal Control director: Ordinance is effective
By Whitney Snipes
Despite numbers that fail to show a decline in dog bites reported to the city’s Animal Control since its inception, the department’s director feels the city’s ban on pit bulls has been effective.
The three years before the ban was implemented in 2006, four bites each were reported in 2003 and 2004 and two bites were reported in 2005. In the three years after the ban was passed, bite reports numbered five in 2007, four in 2008 and two in 2009.
Bite reports may not offer the whole picture, however, Animal Control Director Mike Vernon said last week.
“At the time, we were just having a problem with the numbers,” he said, and added “we were picking them up running loose left and right and they were killing people’s cats. There was different things. It was just a combination of things.”
Vernon said he does believe there has been a downsize in incidents since the ban has been in effect.
“I think it’s done exactly what people wanted it to do,” Vernon said. “We had a lot of citizens wanting us to do something about it, and the mayor at the time (Raye Turner) wanted us to do something.”
He said only a small number of people spoke against the ban before it was passed, in counterpoint to a seemingly large, vocal group of pit bull supporters that has arisen since the implementation of the ban.
Vernon did not directly respond to a question as to whether he would have initiated the same response had the breed of dogs been different, nor did he respond directly to a question asking for a response to pit bull supporters who equate breed specific legislation to racism, but said “they’re just a more powerful breed and especially against other pets, they’re just really aggressive — most of them are.”
Many people, even those who support a pit bull ban, have said problems with pit bull aggression are often not a dog problem, but a people problem. When asked about this theory, Vernon didn’t agree.
“I think it’s the dog,” he said. Later, he reconsidered, adding, “It’s really both. I think the dogs are the powerful breed that instinctively attacks other animals, but it’s the owners who put them in the situations that cause problems.”
Ordinance 1918 was first heard by the Russellville City Council in April 2006, and passed unanimously in May. It included an emergency clause to provide for the immediate implementation of the ordinance “due to the dangerous nature of the breeds of dogs and animals that are the subject of this Ordinance.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states on its website, “there is currently no accurate way to identity the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill. Many practical alternatives to breed-specific policies exist and hold promise for preventing dog bites.”