Twenty or so Great Bend residents piled into the City Council chambers Wednesday evening to voice their opinions on banning pit bulls within the city limits and other vicious dog-related problems.
By the end of the hour-long hearing before city’s committee charged with drafting recommendations for the council, a two themes emerged.
First, there is a very vocal contingent of pit bull owners who love their dogs and feel they are being punished for the acts of irresponsible owners.
Second, there are those who still view the embattled breed as inherently dangerous and should not be allowed in town.
“It’s not a dog problem,” said Charlie Keeler. “The problem is with the people.”
He went on to ask why existing ordinances against vicious dogs are not enforced.
“I am quite opposed to a pit bull ban,” said another audience member. “You are punishing responsible owners.”
The speaker went on to say that breed-specific bans are costly, ineffective and could cause authorities to target dogs that look like pit bulls.
Gladys Chism told the committee that the city needs stiffer fines and better enforcement. “That’s the solution.”
Even the pit bull owners said there is a issue with dogs running at large. Not all of these are pits, but they all cause problems.
But, “if you look at the facts and put emotion aside, the numbers tell the story,” said Elise Snapp. In 2012, 61 percent of fatal dog attacks were by pit bulls with the next most lethal breed (rottweilers) coming in at 8 percent.
“We’re talking about the safety of our children,” Snapp said. “What price would put on our lives?”
She said only 5 percent of the population owns pit bulls. Everyone else has the right to feel safe when at a park or somewhere else in public.
These dogs are bred to fight, she said.
This remark brought several comments from pit bull supporters. Many spoke of how their pit bulls play with other dogs and children. These animals are, they said, part of their families.
The committee will meet next at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 10. The members will review the comments and start preparing their recommendations to take to the Council. The meet will be open to the public.
It was George and Zola Weber who came before the council at its May 20 meeting requesting the dogs be banned. Although dog lovers, they said they fear their children are in danger from the dogs next door.
However, it was also noted during the meeting that the city has ordinances in place to control vicious animals, and that perhaps these needed more force and better enforcement. In the end, the council voted to form the committee.
To that committee, Mayor Mike Allison named Zola Weber, Reggie Kern, and RaShann Southard to be the at-large members of the committee, and Joel Jackson and Edwin Roberts to be the City Council representatives on the committee. City staff has selected City Attorney Bob Suelter and Police Chief Dean Akings to be the city staff representatives. The Golden Belt Humane Society has selected Bobbi King and Seth Orebaugh as its representatives. Suelter serves as chairman
Their first meeting was the morning of June 11.