The Garden City Telegram
2/7/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Dog tag

City rightly reins in unfair pit bull policy.

The Garden City Commission recently helped dogs known as pit bulls shed an unfair label.

On Tuesday, the commissioners changed the city's vicious dog ordinance by removing breed-specific language regarding pit bulls.

The move came after citizens understandably questioned the ordinance, which specifically listed pit bulls as vicious and subject to numerous restrictions.

Dogs considered vicious must be confined in an enclosed pen or secure structure, and always restrained and muzzled when out, according to the ordinance. Owners of a "vicious" dog also must display warning signs on their property.

Pit bulls are defined as any American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier breed, or mixed breed that has the appearance of being predominantly one of those three breeds.

High-profile cases of organized dog-fighting rings involving the breeds in recent years led some to wrongly generalize the canines as bloodthirsty fighters. Unfounded fear and misinformation drove communities to overreact with stringent policies related to the dogs known as pit bulls.

Garden City and many other communities nationwide ended up categorizing the animals as vicious — even though the dogs in question clearly were abused.

So-called pit bulls weren't the first dogs labeled in such a way. Breed-specific legislation can be traced back to the 1970s when German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers were targeted.

Supporters of removing the discriminatory tag argue there's no such thing as a vicious breed.

Dogs of any type and size — from the little Chihuahua on up — can lash out, bite and be aggressive in other ways if mistreated.

Those who support erasing breed-specific regulations understandably note how such restrictions may actually encourage conditions of neglect and abuse of certain dogs. And, due to the stigma and restrictions, some aren't even taken to a veterinarian for proper care.

In the end, it's up to a dog's owner to make sure they're handled properly.

While the matter before the city commission shed light on the truth regarding much maligned breeds, let's hope the next time the commission takes up a dog-related issue, it's tied to policies that encourage responsible pet ownership in the community.