Banned breeds keep area safe, some Wapato residents say
by Ross Courtney
WAPATO -- If it wasn't for Butch, Kim Miranda's cedar fence would be covered in graffiti, just like those of her neighbors.
Just like the walls, sidewalks and even some of the vehicles surrounding her South Satus Avenue home.
But because of Butch, her 2-year-old Rottweiler, her fence is clean.
"I'm sure it's because he's here," she said. "They don't mess with me."
Still, Butch's days are numbered in this town. City Hall has banned Rottweilers, Mastiffs and several other derivative breeds and mixes of pit bull terriers to curb its dangerous dog problem.
On Monday, City Council members unanimously passed the new ordinance, which imposes a $250 fine for owning a pit bull mix, joining Tieton, Moxee and Yakima as the only cities in Yakima County to ban certain breeds.
They contend that in a city that can't afford an animal control officer, police officers have had to shoot five marauding dogs in the past six months. Last year, a 4-year-old girl was hospitalized after being mauled by dogs in an alley behind her home. In 2004, a 4-year-old boy nearly lost his arms after being viciously mauled by a pack of stray dogs just outside the city limits.
Wapato Mayor Jesse Farias plans to begin enforcing the new ban after he sends a letter in Spanish and English to each resident. He also plans to give residents time to comply, but hasn't decided how long, he said.
Stories about Butch -- Miranda's watchdog who barks at passers-by during the night -- don't make him regret asking the council for the ban.
"We have a problem with these breed of dogs and we need to do something with them," he said.
Several people have called City Hall about the ordinance, but most asked how long they had to comply rather than complain, Farias said.
Miranda considers Butch -- she calls him Scooby -- part of her family. She and her husband will probably replace him with a German Shepherd or a Doberman, which are just as likely to hurt somebody as a Rottweiler, she said.
She would rather the new law ban only pit bulls, dogs often raised for fighting, instead of Rottweilers.
"We don't have a dog problem, we have a pit bull problem," she said.
Her friend, Daniel Garcia, who lives a block away, calls the new law misguided for going after certain breeds. He knows of golden retrievers that have bitten people and points out a chow tied up around the corner that recently tried to attack some children. He and a neighbor woman used sticks to beat it off.
He owns none of the breeds specified by the ban, but has Chihuahuas he fears would bite somebody sooner than Butch.
He believes city staff should solve the dog problem by inspecting the house and yard of each dog owner before granting them a license.
"All these dogs that are chained and can get loose, that's the problem," he said. ? http://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/5057
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