The City of Great Bend’s committee studying the banning of pit bulls will hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at the City Council chambers, 1209 Williams. Committee members urge the public to attend and offer their input. Those speaking will be allotted five minutes and will asked to address the committee, not each other.
Great Bend resident George Weber stood Wednesday morning before the newly minted committee formed to study banning pit bulls within the city limits and apologized.
“I’m sorry it had to come down to all of this,” he said. It was Weber and his wife Zola who came before the City Council May 20 requesting the dogs be banned after repeatedly having their children threatened by their neighbor’s pit bulls.
“I love dogs,” he said. “It’s about the responsibility of the owners. Something is going to come of this.”
Members of the committee, which includes his wife as an at-large member, assured him that no one was out to vilify him. “We don’t want to make anyone the bad guy,” said Bob Suelter, city attorney and committee chairman.
In fact, “we are glad this was brought up,” said at-large committee member RaShann Southard. It’s been needed for a long time.
The group was empaneled by Mayor Mike Allison to study banning pit bull terriers, seek public input and present ideas to the Council. “One of the things we want to do is to try to decide what the issues are and make recommendations,” Suelter said.
But, as the 90-minute meeting went on, it was clear the many of the nine committee members and the all nine community members in the audience thought the dog problem in Great Bend went beyond one type of dog. Discussed were better enforcement of existing vicious dog ordinances, more costly fines, new and stronger ordinances and more funding for Golden Belt Humane Society operations.
“There are other vicious dogs in Great Bend, not just pit bulls,” said Bobbi King, humane society director and committee member. Her facility faces a growing number of stray dogs and limited space to house them.
“I think we’re going to get to that point and we may not end up with a breed-specific ordinance,” Suelter said. But, he was hesitant to expand the scope of the mayoral mandate right out of the gate.
It’s more than a matter of canines, said at-large committeeman Reggie Kern. “We’re not just dealing with vicious dogs, we’re dealing with irresponsible dog owners.”
King agreed. She stressed the importance of basic obedience training and socialization of the animals.
There is also a lot of over breeding of pits and other dogs which adds to the number of unwanted strays, Southard said. “People have no idea how many there are.”
Licensing fees for and restrictions on breeding, stronger emphasis on spading and neutering and the use of microchip tracking devices were suggested. There was also discussion of rescue operations in which dogs are moved from shelter to shelter for adoptions.
When it comes to stray animals, King said they must keep them for at least three days waiting for someone to claim them. After that, they can be put to sleep, although the society waits as long as it can before euthanizing them.
There was talk of humane and effective containment of dogs, the use of tethering and about pit bulls being consider family members. Some in the crowd also criticized law enforcement for its unwillingness to take dog complaints.
The meeting Monday at the City Office was the committee’s first. “We just want to make sure we are all on the same page,” Suelter said as he handed out information packets that included copies of the existing regulations.
They set their next meeting for 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at the City Council chambers, 1209 Williams. An evening time was selected to make it more accessible for those who might have to work during the day. “We want people to show up and speak their minds,” Suelter said.
Other committee members include: Joel Jackson and Edwin Roberts, City Council representatives; Police Chief Dean Akings; and Seth Orebaugh of the Humane Society.