Greybull, WY passes first reading of pit bull ordinance

At the October 21, 2013 city council meeting in Greybull, Wyoming, the town’s animal control officer, Doug Youngerman,  introduced an ordinance that would regulate “any American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, or any dog which as the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly in any one or more of the aforementioned breeds.”  While the Greybull Standard article indicates the ordinance is exclusive to terrier-type dogs, please note it also includes Presa Canarios and Cane Corsos.

The town’s current ordinance defines a vicious dog as any dog that “attacks, rushes or bites, snaps or snarls or in any manner menaces any person, vehicle or other animal outside the premises of its owner or keeper, or shows any plausible tendency to do so, without provocation.”  Mr. Youngerman, however, feels the current ordinance doesn’t go far enough, and has drafted Ordinance 6.08.07, which would regulate the keeping of pit bull breed dogs and other vicious dogs within the Town of Greybull, Wyoming.

While Youngerman advised the council that the community hasn’t had any incidents involving pit bulls, he insists that there are “some very scary pit bulls out there.”  He went on to advise the council that he was justified in pursuing a ban on pit bulls because other communities have done so, and because pit bulls were “in a class by themselves.”

The councilmen had varying opinions on Mr. Youngerman’s proposal:

Councilman Bob McGuire, who cast the only dissenting vote on the first reading, felt the ordinance was a kneejerk reaction.  He told the council that it boils down to personal responsibility of the individual owners, and that a vicious animal is a vicious animal, regardless of breed.  McGuire also reminded the council that the town already has an ordinance on the books regulating vicious dogs, and that the new one isn’t needed.

Although Councilman Jorgensen approved the ordinance on its first reading, he wants additional information about what other municipalities in Wyoming have pit bull ordinances on the books before he will vote to approve the ordinance at the second reading.

At the other end of the spectrum, Councilman Collingwood felt the ordinance didn’t go far enough and should list other breeds, and Police Chief Brenner supported Youngerman by adding that  “there’s a reason ‘they’ are banning [pit bulls] all around the United States….towns and cities aren’t banning other breeds; they’re only banning pit bulls.”

So to recap what we’ve got so far:  (1) there have been no reported incidents in Greybull involving dogs, in general, but (2) there are some “very scary pit bulls out there,” and (3) everybody else is doing it, so we should regulate them, too…just in case.

Ordinance 6.08.070 defines a “pit bull” as:

1.      A pit bull terrier breed of dog;
2.       Staffordshire bull terrier breed of dog;
3.       The American pit bull terrier breed of dog;
4.       The American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog;
5.       The Presa Canario breed of dog;
6.       The Cane Corso breed of dog;
7.       Any dog of mixed breed or of other breeds than above listed which breed or mixed breed is known as pit bull terriers; or
8.       Any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more of the above breeds, or any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club for any of the above breeds.

Under the proposal, dog owners may appeal the determination that their dog is a “pit bull” by filing a written petition to the animal control officer (i.e., the same person who made the initial breed determination), and the dog would then  be “observed” by the animal control officer and two veterinarians in order to determine its breed.

In addition, the new ordinance would require pit bulls be kept indoors, in a securely enclosed and locked pen or kennel approved by the town’s animal control officer or in a fenced area approved by the animal control officer, except when leashed.  If the pit bill is out its confined area, it would have to be on a leash no longer than 4 feet, and would have to be muzzled at all times.

A pit bull owner would also be required to provide the animal control officer with two color photographs of the pit bull, post signs on his or her property “warning passers-by that there is a pit bull on the property,”  and provide the town with proof of public liability insurance in a single amount of $250,000.

Finally, Youngerman said the new ordinance wouldn’t restrict anyone’s choice to own a pit bull, but it does say that if they are going to own them, they must take full responsibility for their pet. The problem with his position is that he seems to imply there is no need for owners of others breeds to take responsibility for their dogs.

Plain and simple, dog ownership is a responsibility, and its not to be taken lightly.  We owe it to our dogs, and we owe it to our communities.  We agree that  dog owners must be held accountable for the actions of their dogs, but that responsibility shouldn’t be limited  to owners of specific breeds of dogs.

The second vote on the ordinance is scheduled for November 12, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.

Please reach out to the Greybull city officials with your polite, respectful and informative opposition to breed specific legislation.  The first vote was taken only with the  input from the animal control officer who seems to have a bias against certain breeds.  Well-reasoned, fact-based information can have a powerful impact on the city council members who have not had the opportunity to hear both sides of the argument.

Let the council members know that community safety is extremely important to us all, and breed specific ordinances only give residents a false sense of security.   Please also include viable suggestions and alternate breed-neutral ordinances for their consideration. We suggest using the NAIA’s Guide to Constructing Successful Pet Friendly Ordinances.  Encourage the Greybull officials to strictly enforce their current vicious dog ordinance and hold all dog owners responsible for their dogs, doing so will result in a safer environment for the entire community – people and animals alike.

You can find talking points for your letters here.

Mayor and city council
Greybull.mayor@wyonet.com,mylesfoley@hotmail.com,
cgcollingwood2000@yahoo.com,badge@tctwest.net,
Jorgensen.greybull@yahoo.com

Greybull Town Hall
24 South 5th Street
Greybull, WY 82426
p. 765-9431
f. 765-2409

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