Area communities are questioning the value of breed-specific dog bans, and they should.

Local laws banning specific breeds of dogs have faced questions in Sarcoxie and Carthage. The Sarcoxie Board of Aldermen decided to repeal its ordinance banning pit bulls and Rottweilers because it was impossible to enforce.

In Carthage, the public safety committee will review its existing pit bull ban after several residents opposed it at a January meeting, said James Harrison, the committee’s chairman and a member of the Carthage City Council. However, Harrison said the public safety committee likely will delay any action until the end of the state legislative session in May. The General Assembly is expected to consider bills to prohibit breed-specific bans, though similar measures in previous legislative sessions have fallen by the wayside.

Breed bans are a poor tool. They are ineffective and hard to enforce for a variety of reasons, including privacy concerns, difficulty in breed identification, mixed breeds and the fact that most citations come in the wake of some other violation — frequently a bite or other dangerous animal complaint — that is better targeted under ordinances that focus on the owner’s responsibility and on behavior rather than breed.

Expert groups such as 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. Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that breed-specific bans are ineffective, instead advocating training, owner responsibility, animal control enforcement and prompt reporting.

Frankly, thoughtless dog owners are more the problem than any particular breed. Owners should be accountable to ensure pets’ training and people’s safety. Community leash laws and tag laws are better suited to address aggressive animal problems as well as to ensure spaying and neutering that reduce the number of strays and reduce animal aggression. Communities should focus enforcement efforts to address dangerous or vicious dogs by holding irresponsible owners to account, including imposing fines and restitution.

Licensing laws offer the best opportunity to prohibit repeat offenders from owning dogs, removing any animals and fining those who repeatedly breed and train aggressive animals.

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