SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- City leaders in Springfield toughened enforcement of pit bulls in the city limits.
Council approved a ban on new pit bulls in the city beginning next year. The proposal passed by a close 5-4 vote. If someone violates the ban, the violator could face jail time. Current registered pit bulls are safe from the ban.
Supporters argued for passage due to an increase in the number and severity of dog bites attributed to pit bulls. Animal advocacy groups and pitbull owners say these changes punish the dog, not the irresponsible owner. They feel that the current vicious and dangerous animal ordinace that covers any incidents involving a dog of any breed is a better city law.
Council separated the bill into three parts Monday night. This allowed them the option to vote on each separately.
All agreed on stiff penalties and how hearings should be handled.
However, outlawing the breed altogether still has everybody divided.
"It's all about how you train them and raise them up," says pit bull owner, Samantha Dyal.
She and many others came out to rally support, in front of city hall, one last time.
There's no way you're coming to my dog and saying he's aggressive. There's not a way," she says.
It was their last appeal to city council.
"We just, we love our dogs. I couldn't live without Eddie," explains pit bull owner, Kenna Cooper.
"I understand what we're doing but what we're doing is, we're sending people a message that we've taken care of the problem and this part of the ordinance doesn't do that," says council member, Craig Hosmer.
One by one, Springfield City Council members spoke their piece. Some are in favor of banning the pit bull breed from city limits.
"Advocating for the safety of our children in our community," says Phyllis Ferguson.
Craig Fishel says, “You’ve got several others, cities in the United States, for many, many years and they would not repeal them. They've been very, very successful."
Other council members had their reservations about the ban.
"It's a complicated and confusing issue. The proposed ordinance with the ban I believe is problematic," says council member Richard Ollis.
He says city resources already thin.
"Identifying a dog's breed by visual inspection is challenging. Our animal control department is understaffed and does not have adequate resources to enforce our current ordinance let alone increasing regulation," he says.
Pit bull owner and advocate, Amber McBride says, "Its panic policy making."
She says she and many others aren't ready to give up. They are planning to file a petition with the city to fight council's decision.
"When the city council passes something, you have 30 days. We need 2,500 signatures which we will get. Then they will have to throw it out or take it to a vote with the public, which we're ready for that too," she says.
If the bill stands as is it will go into effect January 1, 2018. Any dogs not registered with the city by that date will not be allowed to legally live within city limits. They will, however, be impounded and given a temperament test. If the dog is deemed safe it will be put up for adoption, within or outside the city limits.
This option will not be available after January 1, 2019 when the ban goes into full effect. Any unregistered dogs may be seized and destroyed.
Failure to comply with the city ordinance will result in fines and possibly jail time.