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Pit-bull bans controversial, but they work
July 19, 2014
WAUSAU – The city of Antigo has been pit-bull-free for almost 20 years.
In 1995, the city hired an attorney who suggested that the city adopt an ordinance prohibiting the oft-maligned dogs from the city, said Kaye Matucheski, city clerk-treasurer for Antigo. The ordinance largely was a preventative measure; Antigo hadn’t had any vicious dog attacks, but pit bulls were being blamed for maulings all over the United States, so the city acted before an attack happened rather than waiting to react afterward.
The ordinance the city adopted prohibits pit bulls and mixes of the breed, as well as any other vicious or dangerous animals, from being in the city. In the almost 20 years since it was adopted, Antigo has had no attacks, no maulings, and no dogs killed by pit bulls or other dogs.
Contrast that with Wausau, where in June, a woman was attacked by a pit bull that charged from its home and killed the Chihuahua the woman was walking. That dog remains in quarantine at the Humane Society of Marathon County as a court case seeking to have it euthanized moves forward.
Meanwhile, the owner of the dog was cited June 19 for allowing a dog to run loose, keeping a vicious dog, failing to license the animal and failure to have it vaccinated for rabies, according to Wausau Police Lt. Mike Juedes. And the woman who was attacked, Cindy Ryder, has called on the city to ban pit bulls as Antigo and other cities have.
Municipal leaders where such bans have been adopted say the rules are simple and they work. They ensure that pit bulls are kept under control to protect the safety of residents and other animals. Critics of the laws, though, say they punish good owners for the actions of bad owners.
The village of Stratford and the city of Greenwood both have similar bans on pit bulls and dangerous animals. Lonna Klinke, Greenwood’s clerk-treasurer, said her city’s experience is much like Antigo’s: no specific incidents inspired the ban, and since it was adopted, the city has had no attacks and issued no citations.
Greenwood, she said, has no pit bull problem.
How the bans work
The June attack in Wausau was the latest in a series of maulings that has seen 10 dogs declared vicious by the city over the last six months, and police are called almost every week to a report of a problem animal running loose or threatening people.
Marathon County spends about $68,000 a year sheltering stray, surrendered and impounded dogs, and last year, about half of the dogs in the Humane Society of Marathon County’s shelter were pit bulls awaiting adoption or euthanasia.
In contrast, Antigo is pit-bull free, and authorities spend almost no resources chasing the problem dogs, Matucheski, the clerk-treasurer, said.
“If there is an incident where we’re informed that a resident has a pit bull, they are visited by the police department and asked to remove the pit bull,” Matucheski said.
Pit bulls that are found in the city are impounded, Matucheski said, and are kept at the humane society, where they can be adopted by people who live outside city limits.
When Antigo adopted its ban, pit bulls already in the city were allowed to stay, but owners had to register them with the city and follow strict guidelines, including muzzling their animals and keeping them on short leashes when they are outdoors — a procedure similar to those in other municipalities that have adopted bans.
According to national dog attack statistics from www.dogsbite dot org, pit bulls and pit bull mixes represent about 6 percent of all dogs in the United States but are responsible for the overwhelming majority of all maulings.
Between 1982 and 2013, pit bulls were responsible for 275 deaths and 1,779 maimings, according to the organization, which tracks dog attacks.
Over the same time period, Rottweilers caused 81 deaths and 294 maimings; German shepherds caused 15 deaths and 63 maimings; and Dobermans caused seven deaths and 10 maimings.
About the bans:
Many pit bull bans share stipulations:
Bans on dogs known as “pit bulldogs,” including the Staffordshire bull terrier, the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier breeds, and any dog that has the appearance or characteristics of any of these breeds
Pit bulls that were registered with the city before a ban was implemented are allowed to remain, provided the owner uses a muzzle on the pit bull and that it is kept on a leash no more than four feet long
Owners who have been allowed to keep their pit bulls must have a minimum of $50,000 in single-incident insurance
Owners must post Beware of Dog signs that can be easily seen by the public
Any puppies born to a registered pit bull must be removed from the city within six weeks of their birth