A week ago this past Monday, a 4-year-old Hoisington boy was mauled by a pit bull that jumped a fence into the boy’s yard. This attack served as backdrop for Wednesday night’s meeting of the City of Great Bend committee charged with studying banning or more severely regulating vicious dogs.
“We want to avoid a repeat of that incident,” said committee Chairman and City Attorney Bob Suelter.
It was George and Zola Weber who came before the City Council May 20 requesting pit bulls be banned after repeatedly having their children threatened by their neighbor’s pit bulls. The Council opted to form the committee to formulate recommendations.
The committee has met twice before and will meet again at 6 p.m. next Wednesday at the City Office. Their report will likely be addressed by the full Council sometime in August.
This Wednesday night at City Hall, it was the feeling of the committee’s majority that a breed-specific ban was not the answer. “It’s not a pit bull problem. We are dealing with a multitude of problems,” said committee member Reggie Kern, who himself raises pit bulls.
“Again, its the owners,” said member RaShann Southard, referring to the Hoisington case in which dog that attacked the child had been reported previously.
“I’ve heard that argument before,” Suelter said. “We have to get something done to stop irresponsible owners.”
In light of this, there was talk about controlling of stray dogs.
Among the ideas were increased fines, tightened ordinances on what constitutes adequate confinement (including fencing, tethering and dog houses) and better enforcement of existing regulations.
Zola Weber, who also serves on the committee, suggested mandatory aggression testing for all dogs. But others said this requires very specialized training and is very costly.
Other suggestions included requiring an annual license for breeders, more stringent follow-through on spaying and neutering requirements, and more resources for the Golden Belt Humane Society so it can step up enforcement.
As the laws are now, very little can be done unless a dog actually assaults someone, at which point a complaint can be filed and a court case pursued. Another option might be to allow for a more proactive approach which would allow residents to report a dog they feel is vicious dog but has not attacked.
Authorities would then visit with the owner and check on the animal, making an on-site evaluation. This could stop some problems before they occur.
Suelter will prepare a report including all the suggestions made during the meeting. This list will serve as a starting point for next week’s meeting and the foundation of what the committee will present to the Council.
Other committee members include: Joel Jackson and Edwin Roberts, City Council representatives; Police Chief Dean Akings; and Bobbie King and Seth Orebaugh of the Humane Society.