The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

January 20, 2014

Ryan Richardson: Pet advocacy leads cities to change laws

JOPLIN, Mo. — One of my favorite things to do on Tuesdays is read my Google feed on pet topics.

I take about 45 minutes to pull out different articles that I would like to use as discussion topics in this column. I have dogs and cats, exotic pets, pet health topics, disease outbreaks and pet legislation all at my fingertips each week.

This lets me know about happenings and issues as they are announced. It is pretty cool to find that the city of St. Louis pushed through an emergency ordinance in the face of brutal cold earlier this month that protects pets that are left outdoors. It makes me smile when a city's government takes the time to focus on our furry friends.  It was even better to hear the story of Debi Baker, a Bonner Springs, Kan., resident. Baker is the owner of pit bull named Titan, and she is a resident inside of the city.

Her dog got loose, and animal control caught the dog. Instead of returning the dog to her, they notified her that pit bulls are a banned breed inside of the city. Titan was taken to a facility in Lawrence, Kan., about 35 minutes away.

Baker was allowed to visit Titan for the next seven months as she lobbied the city council to lift the ban on certain breeds inside city limits.

Last Monday her hard work paid off as the city officially lifted the ban and decided to look at enacting a dangerous dog law to replace the ban.

The new ordinance would focus on pet owners as the responsible party when dealing with certain dogs that have been labeled as dangerous or particularly aggressive because of past incidents. This is such a departure from past laws that simply stamped out the ownership of breeds because they might be dangerous.

I applaud these efforts greatly because I've always thought bans on certain dog breeds is kind of ludicrous. Putting a ban on breeds often leads dogs to kill shelters because they can't be adopted.

I've been bitten by dogs before, none of which were listed as an aggressive or dangerous breed. I have been around dogs labeled "dangerous," and the worst thing I got was a dog's tongue licking my hand as I gave him a treat.

Is this anecdotal evidence? Sure. I can't speak on behalf of every pet owner or pet out there, and I haven't been around every dog out there. But I also know that I can't automatically assume a dog is going to attack me because there might be a certain breed in its history.

Dangerous dog laws are the new trend that has gained ground with major pet-advocacy groups, including the ASPCA. This is a new experiment in how pets are dealt with inside of a city. I applaud these cities for taking a fresh look at their laws -- it is easier to just say no instead of finding a way to logically approach a problem with a solution.

To Debi Baker, I also applaud your work. When people talk about pet advocacy, those in the Kansas City area will talk about you. There are several other suburban cities in the Kansas City area evaluating their existing laws to see what changes need to be made. Debi, your hard work paid off for other pet advocates.

Contact Ryan Richardson about this column or other topic suggestions at rrichardson@joplinglobe.com or 417-627-7363.

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