REPEAL ALERT! Wentzville, Missouri

This article published in St. Louis Today is definitely more along the lines of what we’ve been hearing out of Wentzville, and certainly great news.

The Board of Aldermen has directed the police chief to work with attorneys to draft a new animal control ordinances that emphasizes owner responsibility and eliminates the breed specific language that targets pit bulls. The draft of this new ordinance will be presented at the January 25, 2012 meeting.
Kudos to the Wentzville city officials for acknowleding that statistics and knowledge about “pit bulls” and breed bans have changed since the city passed its original ordinance, and for being open to the information offered to them by residents.

Obviously, its not a done deal until the final vote, but great job to all those who have attended the Board meetings in Wentzville and offered their assistance and suggestions in helping the city reach what looks to be a very promising ordinance! In the meantime, residents are encouraged to continue to show their support for these positive changes.

Wentzville might replace pit bull laws

Wentzville officials appear ready to do away with the city’s pit bull ordinances.

During a work session meeting Dec. 7, the Board of Aldermen directed Interim Police Chief Kevin Pyatt to work with attorneys to draft new animal control ordinances that emphasize owner responsibility and have them ready by the board’s Jan. 25 meeting.

Pyatt said the new ordinances would eliminate the current breed-specific regulations targeting pit bulls and focus on holding owners more accountable for their pets’ care. It is possible the new laws also would do away with the requirement that pit bulls be muzzled at all times when outdoors, he said.

Wentzville currently requires pit bulls be kept indoors or enclosed in locked pens or kennels with roofs. The enclosure requirements have stirred debate among aldermen and dog owners who say the pit bull ordinances require structures that exceed the size allowed by city zoning codes.

Doug Forbeck, the city’s community development director, said the animal ordinances require an 8-foot fence, while zoning codes prohibit fences taller than 6 feet in residential areas. The enclosure requirements also violate setback and lot size requirements, he said.

Pyatt said it would take more thought to figure out how the new animal ordinances would address the zoning conflicts. But in the end, the new laws would focus on requiring owners to maintain control of their dogs at all times, rather than requiring them to build specific structures and fences, Pyatt said.

Veterinarian Mark Lucas, owner of the Animal Talk Medical Center in Wentzville, is contracted to handle rabies control and bite cases for Wentzville and O’Fallon. Lucas said pit bulls were responsible for just three of 19 bite cases his office has handled during the last year in both cities.

“Writing ordinances that are breed specific does not make sense,” Lucas told the aldermen during the work session.

Small breeds like Chihuahuas are more aggressive and inflict more damage than pit bulls and other large dogs, Lucas said. Instead of regulating the breed, ordinances should regulate the way owners treat their animals, he said.

“If you leave a Chihuahua outside overnight, it is just as bad as leaving a pit bull outside overnight,” Lucas said.

Alderman Chris Gard, Ward 2, asked the board to re-evaluate the city’s pit bull laws after hearing concerns from owners earlier this year. Gard suggested several changes to the laws. He said statistics and knowledge about pit bulls and other breeds have changed since the city’s original ordinances were written.

“Pit bulls get treated one way and all other dogs get treated another way,” Gard said. “The owner should be held responsible. Teeth are missing from our laws. It’s not about bad pit bulls. It’s about bad owners.”

Dog owners have questioned how the city can determine whether their animals are really pit bulls, and thus subject to the breed-specific restrictions. Lucas said pit bulls are a mix of breeds and that the American Kennel Club does not recognize pit bulls as a registered breed.

Genetic testing is unreliable in determining whether a dog has pit bull DNA, he said.

Alderman Nick Guccione, Ward 3, asked Lucas if there was technology besides a muzzle that could contain an aggressive dog.

“No,” Lucas said.

Alderman Rick Stokes, Ward 3, said the most serious recent animal attack in Wentzville happened earlier this year when a big, black dog bit a girl on the cheek, requiring her to have plastic surgery. The dog was not a pit bull, Stokes said.

“So our ordinances did not help that girl at all,” he said. “We all agree that we need to make changes. We need more owner responsibility, not breed-specific ordinances.”


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