Tonight, the City Council of Shawnee, KS (population 65,323) voted unanimously to repeal it's long-standing ban on pit bull-like dogs. Shawnee has become the 19th city in Kansas to repeal its ban on pit bulls in just the past 8 years and the 17th since 2010.
Shawnee, a quiet suburb of Kansas City, was one of the earlier cities in the country to pass a ban on pit bulls -- back in 1985. So for 31 years, as the city has grown, pit bulls and their owners have not been welcome.
However, that has all changed.
And the reasons for the change can be seen in a memorandum (starting on page 155) from Captain Ben Mendoza, Special Operations Bureau Commander in his letter to the City Manager with his reasoning for wanting the repeal.
" The pit bull prohibition was enforced successfully for many years, however over time it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish whether a dog is a specific pit bull breed. Additionally, trends in animal control enforcement have moved from differentiating an animal's propensity to aggressive behavior based on breed alone, to establishing a consistent response to all aggressive acts by any animal."
Captain Mendoza goes on to explain that in 1996 and again in 2007, the city passed behavior-based laws that specifically gave officers the ability to address animals that exhibit aggressive or harmful behavior.
"Depending on conditions, any breed of dog may bite, no matter how well-bred, well-trained, or well-loved the animal is. Another important reason to make this change is the need to emphasize owner accountability rather than sole emphasis being placed on the animal. The owner, environment and manner in which the dog is raised can mold the dog into an aggressive animal, regardless of the breed. Eliminating the prohibition of pit bulls and using Dangerous Animal enforcement will provide for a consistent response to all animals who exhibit aggressive behavior. The SMC includes a number of enforceable restrictions for both Dangerous and Potentially Dangerous animals."
After some further explanation of the dangerous dog provisions, Mendoza notes that Shawnee is not alone in its desire to repeal breed-specific legislation:
"Currently 19 different states have passed laws prohibiting county or municipal breed specific legislation, and Missouri is one of the most recent to begin discussions on the topic. Kansas state law does not currently contain breed specific language and applies to any animal deemed dangerous. Of the 20 cities in Johnson County, Shawnee is currently one of four with a breed-specific ordinance.....Spring Hill (2014) and Roeland Park (2015) are the most recent cities in Johnson County to lift their ban on specific breeds."
Now the number of Johnson County cities with breed-specific laws is just three.
There was no opposition to the change. Two people testified in favor (one was a business owner of a canine service industry who's business was negatively impacted by the law), and many more people in the room were there to testify in favor of the change. Several city council members spoke in support of the law and noted that the time for the change was way past due.
Congrats to the community of Shawnee and for others that are making the decision to repeal old breed-specific laws and put the emphasis on canine and owner behavior.