The Town of Jasper, at the suggestion of the the police department and animal control, took the first step towards making owners of pit bulls carry additional insurance and adhere to more strict containment for their dogs within the town’s limits.
Animal control supervisor Justin Baker said that the town has increased in the numbers of the breed in Jasper. Correspondingly, he claims he has had a significant rise in calls related to the breed. Baker recommended the board outlaw the breed altogether.
The board wasn’t willing to capitulate to an all-out ban, but were wanting stronger requirements for owners of the dogs. Police Chief Billy Mason was comfortable with the increased requirements.
Whereas the exact language of the ordinance may undergo minor modification, the high points were, when passed, pit bull owners had thirty days to register their pitbull and would have to carry a $1,000,000 insurance policy and put enhanced containment such as burying a fence two feet below ground level and keep minimum height on the fence line.
The situation is concerning for numerous reasons but for one the City of Jasper is singling out the pitbull breed. No other breed.
Breed specific ordinances are quick fixes and not a sufficient long term solution for the following reasons:
1. Dog problems are generally problems with owner responsibility and are not limited to breeds. When breeds are singled out as dangerous or vicious, responsibility is removed from the dog owner which is where it belongs. Irresponsible people are also less likely to follow the law - and as a result, everyone has to suffer.
2. By limiting the ability of citizens to own certain breeds, responsible law abiding citizens will shy away from those breeds. These are the types of owners that communities need to encourage, not drive away.
3. Communities that have instituted such bans often find that the irresponsible owners and the criminals who use dogs for illegal purposes simply switch to another breed.
4. Breeds and mixes are hard to identify and often dogs are mis labeled and destroyed based on paranioa and prejudice and also punishes those that are good canine citizens. Many breeds function as assistance dogs for handicapped owners, search and rescue dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, police dogs, etc. and drives them out of the community.
5. The dog most restricted is the "pit bull." A pit bull is a type of dog, not a recognized breed.
6. Passage of laws that are only enforced through complaints cause two problems: 1) they create disrespect for the law if authorities require compliance only upon complaint, and 2) they provide ammunition for neighborhood feuds.
Suggested alternatives to breed bans include:
1. Stronger enforcement of existing dangerous dog laws. If they are not already in place, lobby for protection from untrained and unsupervised dogs of any breed or mix. This is a broad-based effort that protects all citizens as any dog can bite and be a nuisance when owned by an irresponsible owner. Those who would deliberately train a dog to act aggressively towards people or other animals, or to use dogs in the commission of a felony or misdemeanor should face additional penalties
2. Encourage local animal rescue and welfare agencies to provide responsible dog ownership seminars and canine safety education.
3. Protect the rights of all citizens with nuisance ordinances such as anti-barking, pooper scooper regulations and leash laws.