Pit bulls given a reprieve

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Group drops breed-specific portion from proposed dog law

By Ben Carlson

Owning a pit bull in Anderson County won’t become more difficult if a committee seated to help the county create an updated dog ordinance gets its way.

The committee met for nearly five hours last Thursday afternoon, but immediately made it clear that the majority of its members would not support breed specific legislation.

“My agenda here is to not have breed specific legislation passed,” said committee member and veterinarian Aaron Goodpaster. “That would create more hate and discontent than anyone could imagine.”

The committee, seated by Judge-Executive Steve Cornish and tasked with helping create a new countywide dog ordinance, immediately stripped away language from an ordinance drafted by the county attorney that dealt in part with pit bulls.

Nothing the committee does will become law until voted on by the Anderson County Fiscal Court. Two magistrates, Buddy Sims and David Ruggles, are on the committee, along with Humane Society representatives Donna Callahan and Pam Rogers, and Nick Risen, a dog trainer from Salvisa.

During the meeting, only Ruggles seemed to support including specific language about pit bulls and stuck to his previous position that the overwhelming majority of dog attacks involve pit bulls.

“As a fiscal court, we are responsible to protect our citizens,” Ruggles said.

Rogers, who is Kentucky’s representative to the national Humane Society, said pit bulls are the dogs of choice for drug dealers and those interested in dog fighting.

Ruggles countered, saying that attraction is exactly why the county needs to restrict as much as possible pit bull ownership.

“You said people get pit bulls to fight, so there has to be some connection to pit bulls if everyone is using them to fight. It’s logical to assume that they are the most dangerous animals around.”

Rogers said the reason pits are popular for fighting is due to their ability to pursue and continue to serve their masters, even in the face of extreme pain.

“It’s not that they are vicious,” she said. “The owners are using their loyalty against them.”

Rogers said that breed specific legislation is not necessary because an ordinance that requires all pit bulls to be spayed or neutered, coupled with forbidding owners to tie them up, makes them much less attractive to those who want them for fighting or other nefarious reasons.

“If they have to be altered, they don’t want them. If they can’t be on a chain, they don’t want them,” she said, adding that unaltered and chained dogs become more aggressive than those which aren’t.

Callahan, director of the local Humane Society, said whatever ordinance is created should be directed at the people who own the dogs.

“It’s not the dogs we need to go after, it’s the people,” she said, adding that the ordinance should strictly control dog breeding.

“There should be some type of law for owner education,” Risen added.

The issue of pit bulls came to a boil this spring when several attacks involving them happened within a matter of weeks.

In one case, a boy was bitten while playing basketball in his back yard. In another, an animal control officer was forced to the roof of his vehicle before city police shot and ran over a pit bull that escaped from a yard.

In the original ordinance drafted last month by the county attorney, pit bull owners, along with those who own potentially vicious or vicious dogs, would have had to jump through numerous legal hoops. Along with being spayed or neutered, owners would have been required to place a micro-chip in the dog, purchase tens of thousands of dollars in liability insurance and have a secured pen.

Although many of those obstacles remain for potentially vicious and vicious dogs, the committee wants to make sure no breed, including pit bulls, were singled out.

Sims, who chaired the committee, said his goal was to come up with an ordinance that would give the public assurance that the county is working to fix the problem.

“I had hoped to come up with something that would avoid another attack and have enough teeth in the law for people to see we are serious about making changes,” Sims said.

Rogers said what needs to happen is that the ordinance should be written to include an “economic barrier” to prevent breeding.

Jason Chesser, the county’s animal control officer who responds to vicious dog issues, said he would like to see anyone who wants to breed dogs first be forced to obtain permission from the fiscal court.

As for keeping dogs secured when outside, the committee seemed to agree that pens with a solid bottom, top and a locking door are the ideal way.

Ruggles questioned the expense of such pens and if people will be able to afford them.

“That will eliminate ownership of those we don’t want owning them,” Goodpaster said.

Sims said County Attorney Bobbi Jo Lewis, who drafted the original ordinance, would make the changes requested by the committee and present them to the fiscal court.

He said Monday that he wasn’t sure if the committee will hold any more meetings.

E-mail Ben Carlson at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com.