KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Fifteen years after it was put in place, breed-specific legislation banning pit bulls from the City of Overland Park has been repealed — partly because of a petition started by a then 17-year-old Blue Valley girl.
Taylor Walton filed a petition in 2018 to repeal the ban, and thousands of people rallied in support.
Walton described the moment she found out pit bulls would be allowed in her city.
“I had chills go through my body I was just I was so excited it just reminds me of all the dogs throughout high school… not that I could’ve saved, but it’s an overwhelming feeling,” Walton said.
At just 13 years old, the Overland Park native began volunteering at Wayside Waifs and soon fell in love with two dogs whose breed she soon learned was illegal to have in her own backyard.
“There was just something about Fawn and Petunia that put a fire through my body, that I wanted to change,” Walton said. “It’s just not fair, those animals are helpless and they will do anything, anything you ask of them and unfortunately that can be used for the wrong things.“
Four years later, as a sophomore at Blue Valley, Walton drafted the petition that would set in motion a decision three years in the making.
Walton said pit bulls are a breed often times taken advantage of because of their willingness to please the humans who take them in.
“I wanted to be the one to change that, I wanted to prove the world wrong and I am still super determined but in high school I was just a force to be reckoned with when it came to the pit bull ban,” she said.
And, removing the ban could have a positive impact on animal shelters.
“We have so many pit bull type dogs here at our shelter and now we have thousands of available homes that they could potentially go to in Overland Park,” Chief Communications Officer at the KC Pet Project Tori Fugate said.
At any given time, Fugate said, as many as 50% of the animals at the KC Pet Project are pit bulls or mixes of the breed. 30% to 40% of the dogs that end up at KC Pet Project every year are pit bulls.
Walton said the misunderstood dogs only need an opportunity to prove people wrong.
“I understand other families out there and people out there who are doubting these dogs because of the bad reputation they’ve been given, just give one a chance,” Walton said. “That’s all it takes.”
The decision to repeal Overland Park’s ban translates to lives saved now that agencies like the KC Pet Project and Wayside Waif’s can bring pit bulls to adoption events within city limits and more people can foster the dogs, allowing for more room at the shelter for other animals in need.
“The one thing that we never want to see is the human animal bond breaking for any reason,” Fugate said.
For years, that was the case in Overland Park, where families had to either give up or go without having a pit bull because of their zip code, but not anymore.
The new ordinance includes the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier.
The ordinance also adds several protections for dogs when they are outside or tethered.