CARTHAGE, Mo. — A proposal to repeal Carthage’s ban on certain breeds of dogs has been rejected by the City Council’s public safety committee.
After about 20 minutes of discussion, the committee this week voted 3-1 against recommending repealing the breed-specific ban to the full Carthage City Council. Council member Kirby Newport voted "yes," while committee Chairman James Harrison and council members Alan Snow and Darren Collier voted "no."
The issue of breed-specific bans in Carthage resurfaced in January, when resident Christian O’Neill asked the city to consider repealing the ban, which prohibits anyone living in Carthage from owning pit bulls or Rottweilers.
O’Neill presented information from the American Veterinary Medical Association saying breed-specific bans were not the answer to the problem of vicious animals.
“Pit bulls are the most frequent targets of breed-specific legislation despite being a general type rather than a breed,” the AMVA says on its website. “Other breeds also are sometimes banned, including Rottweilers, Dobermans and boxers. However, it is extremely difficult to determine a dog’s breed or breed mix simply by looking at it.”
A variety of expert groups — including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of the United States and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior — do not support breed-specific legislation.
Most support legislation or programs that deal with dangerous dogs and owners rather than specific breeds. Carthage has separate ordinances on the books that deal with dangerous animals and dogs that bite.
Newport said he'd asked that the ban on pit bull terriers and Rottweilers be revisited by the committee this week to give residents a clear idea where the council stood on the matter.
“We kind of left them with a nondecision when we last discussed this,” he said. “I thought the citizens need and deserve to know where we stand. This is a simple repeal of the ban on these breeds. I think our vicious dog ordinance will cover it.”
During discussion of the proposed repeal, Snow expressed concern about the city’s ability to make sure pit bull and Rottweiler owners are not raising vicious animals if it repeals the ban.
“We’ve all kind of experienced over the last month or so how difficult it is to get people to follow simple guidelines, like staying home,” Snow said. “How can we get people to follow guidelines on raising nonvicious dogs if we don’t put some kind of ordinance in place to put some punitive damages on dog owners that raise vicious dogs?”
Harrison said his concern was the severity of injuries caused by pit bull bites versus bites by smaller dogs. He was also concerned that the fines on people who violate Carthage’s vicious animal ordinance are too low.
Collier said he called insurance agents and veterinarians to get their opinions on the proposal. Out of six insurance agents he called, three said they would not insure a home where a pit bull lived, two said they would offer insurance and take into account the presence of the dog, and one said he could insure the home but chose not to because of the risks, Collier said.
He said the insurance agents cited the cost of medical bills for treating pit bull bites, primarily for child victims, as their primary reason against insuring those homes.
"That's tough right there, and as someone with a 10-year-old, that's just hard to do," he said.
Newport suggested sending the repeal to the full council and letting the council decide whether to send it to voters. In the end, the committee decided against that option and left the ban in place.
Kirby Newport and Darren Collier didn’t file for reelection in January and will be replaced on the public safety committee by two new City Council members chosen by Mayor Dan Rife after the June 2 election.