Please continue to write to the Wentzville officials to urge them to pass a breed-neutral ordinance that ensures the safety and welfare of the entire community – humans and animals alike.
A draft ordinance will be presented at the January 25 council meeting.
Wentzville City Hall
310 West Pearce Boulevard
Wentzville, MO 63385
Contact Form for Mayor and Aldermen can be found at this link
Wentzville considers changing pit bull regulations
WENTZVILLE • When Amy and Michael Conner moved last July into a new home with their pit bull mixes, Jack and Gypsy, they didn’t know about Wentzville’s tough restrictions on the breed.
“It’s not fair to them, they’re cooped up in the house all day long,” says Amy Conner, who is among residents trying to get aldermen to change the law. “My dogs have never done anything to anybody.”
Meanwhile, next door on Highland Meadows Place, neighbors Joel and Patti Budnik are rounding up support for retaining the ordinance — which requires pit bulls and pit bull mixes to live in an enclosed kennel or inside the house with windows closed. When walked, such dogs must be muzzled and leashed.
“It adds an extra layer of protection for our children and residents,” Joel Budnik said.
Even with the law, he said, a former neighbor’s pit bull once got loose and came close to attacking him and two of his kids in their back yard.
Wentzville is the latest flashpoint in this ongoing fight, which has played out in communities across the St. Louis area and other locales in recent years.
The Board of Aldermen in recent weeks has discussed repealing the city’s restrictions on pit bulls in effect since 1991 and instead increasing penalties for owners of dogs of any type that exhibit vicious behavior.
The city police department, which enforces animal control laws, is drafting a possible replacement measure for consideration at the board’s Jan. 25 meeting.
“We just need to hold owners accountable for the behavior of their animals, whatever the breed is,” said Alderman Chris Gard, who is pushing for the change. “The way the ordinance is written today, it’s extremely broad.”
Gard added that dogs of other breeds, such as German shepherds, can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time but aren’t subject to the restrictions affecting pit bulls.
However, Mayor Paul Lambi says the current law has worked well and he sees no need for a change. Lambi, who isn’t running for another term in the April 3 election, says he’ll leave it up to aldermen to decide.
Supporters of changing the law include Mark Lucas, a veterinarian whose private practice includes the animal control holding facility for Wentzville and nearby O’Fallon.
Of 19 bite cases in those two cities over the past year, only three involved pit bulls, he told aldermen last month. He said any type of dog can pose a problem if the owner is irresponsible. He said O’Fallon’s law takes a better approach in treating all breeds the same.
“Whether a Chihuahua barks all day or a pit bull barks all day, both are wrong,” he said.
Also, he said DNA testing isn’t reliable for determining a dog’s breed.
Nationally, breed-specific laws are opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Animal Control Association, the American Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association.
On the other side is DogsBite.org, a website based in Austin, Texas, which advocates for dog bite victims. Founder Colleen Lynn said when cities decide against restricting pit bulls, “we (in the public) are supposed to take the risk.”
Lynn started the website after she was injured in a pit bull attack in 2007 while jogging in the Seattle area.
Pit bulls were involved in 22 of 31 fatal dog attacks across the United States last year, according to the website’s study of news articles on such incidents. Rottweilers ranked second, with four fatal attacks.
But the National Canine Research Council, which opposes breed-specific restrictions, says local authorities’ reports often don’t agree with initial news accounts and that breeds involved in many bite fatality cases ultimately can’t be determined.
Gard began pursuing the issue in Wentzville after he was contacted by Amanda Kearney, who had been told by police to register her two dogs, Belle and Harley, as pit bulls and to follow the restrictions.
She said although her veterinarian believes they are Great Dane mixes, she complied for now while the board weighs changing the law.
That spurred pit bull owners in Wentzville and other cities to show up at aldermanic meetings to support Kearney’s request for change. Supporters of the current law also began organizing.
The issue also came up last year in Overland. City Clerk Melissa Burton said the City Council in September toughened its law on dangerous dogs, including a muzzle requirement for pit bulls already living in the city and a ban on new pit bulls.
After pit bull owners objected, Burton said, the council repealed the measure in November and enacted a new law that doesn’t target specific breeds.
Clayton, University City and Jennings have pit bull restrictions similar to those in Wentzville. Some cities go further. Pagedale bars all pit bulls. Florissant, Ferguson, Berkeley, Shrewsbury and Troy, Mo., prohibit new pit bulls but allow residents who had them before the bans were enacted to keep them.
In Illinois, state law prohibits local governments from passing breed-specific controls.
In Wentzville, the issue has come up as the city gets ready to elect a new mayor to succeed Lambi. One candidate, former Alderman Bill Schuette, leans in favor of retaining the current law. Two other candidates, Aldermen Nick Guccione and Leon Tow, are undecided.
People on both sides are passionate, Tow said. “One way or the other, there’s going to be a lot of people unhappy,” he said.