A proposed measure would make it illegal for cities in the state to make laws specific to dog breeds. Current dog breed bans, like the law prohibiting pit bull dogs in Savannah, Missouri, would be made void.
Jenna Keyes, humane educator for St. Joseph Animal Control and Rescue, said some individuals come into the shelter who are specifically looking for a pit bull or other bully dog breed. Others, she said, come in and state they want to stay away from those breeds.
“It’s important to remember they are labeled aggressive breeds, but a lot of them we see are nice, loving dogs that fit in well to most families,” Keyes said.
St. Joseph does not ban the owning of any dog breeds. The city does, however, have an ordinance that addresses aggressive behavior of any dog, regardless of breed. Those regulations would not be affected if this measure passes.
The measure — Missouri House Bill 1811 — specifies that Missouri municipalities and cities have the authority to prohibit dogs from running loose or to create other regulations to control dogs. However, those regulations cannot be specific to just certain dog breeds.
The House overwhelmingly approved the bill last month, with 117 voting in favor and only 17 opposed. Currently, the measure is working its way through the Senate for approval.
Chillicothe, Trenton, Savannah, Cameron and Platte City all have dog breed bans. Some cities also have laws restricting specific breeds, for those who owned pit bulls before bans were put in place.
Chillicothe bans American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and American Pit Bull Terrier within city limits. Anyone owning one of those breeds as of February 2007 has to comply with a slew of restrictions, including ensuring the dog is spayed or neutered and having them leashed and muzzled at all times while the dog is on public property or on private property not owned by the dog’s owner.
Also, owners must show proof of liability insurance to cover any incident involving the dog. Kansas City allows residents to own pit bulls but requires all pit bulls be spayed or neutered.
Keyes said adopting a dog whose breed is labeled aggressive is similar to adopting any other dog breed in St. Joseph. However, there is an extra requirement for bully breed dogs whose owners pick them up.
“The only real difference that we currently have in regards to bully breeds is that whenever one is redeemed by their owner from the shelter, there are some requirements in regards to spaying and neutering that animal,” Keyes said.
When an American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Pit Bull Terrier or Rottweiler, or any dog mixed with one of these breeds is being released from the St. Joseph animal shelter, the dog’s owner must pay a redemption fee.
St. Joseph started allowing the adoption of bully breed dogs from the shelter last July. Prior to that, those dogs were placed in rescue organizations, Keyes said. The shelter also now includes bully breed dogs in its Puppies for Parole Program. The program aims to train dogs with behavior problems. The dogs live with people who are incarcerated for four to eight weeks. With the dogs, they focus on housebreaking, basic commands and socialization.