Controversy continues over pit bull ordinance following attack

Published: Jul. 20, 2017 at 4:09 PM CDT
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After a gruesome attack, pit bulls have been in the headlines this week. Hundreds of viewers have shared their opinions with KY3 with some defending the breed and others calling the dogs vicious.

"Pit bulls are a power breed. They're an athletic breed," said John Lopez, a dog trainer and owner of Standing OBEYtion in Rogersville, Mo.

Lopez does not agree with the term vicious to describe any breed. However, he does see a need for protective measures for dogs not properly trained.

"With any power breed it should be a six foot fence, but it's not because of the breed, it's because of the athletic ability," Lopez said.

Lopez does not believe the measures need to single out any breed, but said some regulations can help prevent attacks like the one that sent two Springfield toddlers and their mother to the hospital earlier this week.

According to city code, pit bulls must be spayed or neutered, micro-chipped, securely confined, and owners must also follow other strict protocol.

"This didn't come out of a vacuum. There's a reason these restrictions were put in place," said Clay Goddard, assistant director for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

Goddard said before the ordinance went into effect, pit bulls made up an alarming number of the reported dog bites citywide. Numbers show in 2005 there were 102 reported dog bites. Pit bull bites accounted for 34 of those.

Since the ordinance went into effect in 2006, Goddard said the number of attacks involving pit bulls has sharply declined, with 78 total attacks in 2015 (the most recent year for which statistics were complete) with 11 of those being pit bulls.

"We think that's evidence of the ordinance working," Goddard said.

Efforts to repeal the ordinance earlier this year were unsuccessful.

"I think every breed, before they're a breed, they have dog instinct, and if you raise them properly then they are not going to show aggressive behaviors," Lopez said.

It was January when a Springfield City Council member proposed eliminating the part of the ordinance that pertains to pit bulls but faced strong opposition. The proposal to change it never came up for an official council vote.