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KCK on the verge of lifting decades-old pit bull ban

Posted at 5:58 PM, May 21, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Wyandotte County’s ban on pit bulls, which has been in place for nearly 30 years, is now on the verge of being lifted. 

The ban applies to the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and dogs with any characteristics of those breeds.

Animal activists and shelter leaders for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas argue the ban creates a strain on already limited funds.

The Humane Society of Greater Kansas City helps KCK's animal shelter care for abandoned and abused dogs.

"Half the time it's a pit bull and we can't adopt them out here in KCK, so we have to find a good home for them elsewhere and that means taking them to Olathe, taking them to KCMO," said Kate Fields, president of the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City. 

A UG committee voted to repeal the ban Monday night. The full commission will decide on the measure May 30. 

KCK's Animal Services told the committee the department spends $246,000 — roughly a quarter of its $1 million budget — on breed-specific services. Animal control officers spend more time going out on a call that might be a pit bull, rather than focusing on all calls. 

"There already is a dangerous dog ban and that was in 2014, so having this pit bull breed-specific law is just a waste of valuable income and time and quite frankly a strain on our community," Fields said. 

The commission voted on repealing the ban in 2014, but the vote ended in a tie. The dangerous dog ordinance came out of that vote.

Under the ordinance, owners found possessing a dangerous or vicious dog could be forced to pay fines up to $1,000, in addition to any court costs. They could also spend up to 180 days in jail. The dog may be taken away from the owner or, in extreme cases, be euthanized. 

A pit bull stays at the UG's shelter 71 days on average, compared to 52 days for a non-pit bull. 

The shelter's pit bull count is currently at 38 percent, or 25 dogs. In 2018, pit bulls accounted for 19 percent of the shelter’s overall population. 

"And they're paying us to go down and care for those animals on top of what we do, and it costs us a lot of money to take those on and house them for however long it may be," Fields said. 

Animal Services Director Jennifer Stewart said the department could use that money on more space to house animals and more staff, such as an adoption coordinator. 

It would cost $18,000 to chip every animal that comes through the UG's shelter, which the shelter currently does not have the money to do. 

Stewart said the UG is missing out on grants that would help hire more people because of the breed-specific policy. 

While there are still some who feel the ban should stay in place, a 2016 community survey found that 83 percent said the ban should be lifted.

District 7 was not surveyed because the two cities within that district, Bonner Springs and Edwardsville, had already done away with a ban. 

The ban on pit bulls went into effect in 1990. In 2006, Jimmie Mae McConnell, 71, died as a result of a pit bull attack in KCK. Enforcement ramped up after that incident.