A bill stripping cities of their right to ban dogs based on breed, sponsored by state Rep. Ron Hicks (R), passed the Missouri house on Thursday, with a bipartisan vote of 117-17.
Hicks says breed specific ordinances amount to nothing more that breed discrimination and causes many breeds to get a bad rap.
“It’s not the dog. It’s not the breed. It’s the owner,” said Hicks. Hicks is a St. Peters resident who owns a boxer named Rosie. “We should hold the owner responsible for the dog’s action, not the animal.”
The bill targets cities imposing breed bans, or those considering such measures, based solely on breed. Breeds such as Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and others have long been vilified and banned from numerous cities throughout the state.
“At first glance I thought I was going to be a ‘no’ vote on this bill because I generally am very respectful of local control,” said state Rep. Tracy McCreery, (D) “Upon further research I realized that most of these identifications of breed-specific bans are done visually and are not accurate at all.
“Even people that work in shelters and veterinary offices admit that they cannot correctly identify the breed of the dogs by visual identification,” she said. “And the impact of that on families is that they’ve had dogs removed from their homes for just some random, you know, pit bull ban, for example.”
Those against the measure have cited statistics that claim Pit Bulls (and other large dogs most commonly banned) rank at the top of the list in numbers of dog bites each year. However, many appose those statistics claiming they are seriously flawed. Most of the bites included in statistics are due to serious injury and sometimes death. But what of the thousand of bites that go unreported, say, bites of smaller dogs like Poodles and Chihuahuas, that do not cause major injury, and therefore are not included in statistics?
“The pit bull is the most loving creature I’ve ever seen in my life,” state Rep. Charlie Davis (R) speaking of his daughter’s dog. “For my daughter to be told that she could not have a loving dog in her home, I think is wrong.”
Multiple St. Louis-area municipalities restrict or ban certain breeds, mostly Pit Bulls: Berkeley, Charlack, Crystal Lake Park, Dellwood, Fenton, Ferguson, Florissant, Normandy, Northwoods, Pagedale, Pine Lawn, Shrewsbury, Troy, Vinita Park and Woodson Terrace.
Other smaller, more rural communities also impose such bans such as Poplar Bluff, Hayti, Caruthersville, Bloomfield, Bonne Terre, Chaffee, Dexter, Fredericktown, Ironton, and more.
Not surprisingly though, dog bite incidents have not decreased in municipalities with such bans.
(To see a comprehensive list of cities banning “vicious” dog breeds, click here)
House Bill 1811 will now continue to the Missouri senate. The deadline to pass the bill is May 13, the end of the legislative session.
Should the bill be passed and made into law, it would be retroactive, meaning that all bans currently in place in Missouri would be nullified. If passed, Missouri would be the 20th state to pass such legislation limiting restrictions based solely on breed.