KC struggles with effects of law on pit bulls
By ALVIN CHANG
The Kansas City Star
Each week, Kate Quigley drives into Kansas City neighborhoods looking for pit bulls that haven�t been spayed or neutered.
And each week she finds them � sometimes as many as four or five on one block.
Two years after Kansas City began requiring all pit bulls to be spayed or neutered in the wake of a spate of dog attacks, the results are mixed.
That may not be surprising. A number of suburbs have other types of pit bull ordinances but none is a perfect solution, animal experts said. Outright bans, for example, are leading to a backlog of adoptable pit bulls at area shelters.
In Kansas City, early statistics show both promise and challenges for the spay-and-neuter ordinance.
On one hand, the number of impounded pit bulls has gone up significantly � about 4,000 since August 2006, compared with 2,600 in the prior 25 months.
But about 2,500 pit bulls have been euthanized, 900 more than in the previous two years, which wasn�t the purpose of the ordinance.
The number of reported pit bull bites also has stayed steady. From August 2006 until June 12, 147 bites were reported, including several attacks causing serious injury. That�s about the same rate of bites as before the ordinance.
Patrick Egberuare, acting division manager of animal health and public safety for Kansas City, said he saw success in the statistics.
�All I can explain to you is that we obviously impound more, and the more we get off the street, the less we�ll have out there,� he said.
Bites may not be down, but Egberuare said the effort was a work in progress. �When the ordinance was enacted, we didn�t expect miracles overnight,� he said.
Michelle Dormady, president of Spay and Neuter Kansas City, a nonprofit group that Quigley works with, said she did not like the outright pit bull bans in some suburbs, but she was torn about Kansas City�s success.
�If it wasn�t for the ordinance, we wouldn�t have spayed and neutered as many as we have,� Dormady said. �But the downside to the ordinance is that there are more dying.�
Many pit bull owners brought their dogs to shelters, and the city impounded others, causing the shelters to euthanize more pit bulls than expected.
In the year after the measure was implemented, almost 1,300 pit bulls were spayed or neutered at Spay and Neuter Kansas City, Dormady said. Before the ordinance, fewer than 30 pit bulls were sterilized each month. Altering pit bulls reduces overpopulation and also reduces aggression in males.
But now pit bull altering rates have dropped back to near pre-ordinance levels at Spay and Neuter Kansas City. Because the ordinance is mainly enforced on a report-based system, the nonprofit organization has to go out and find the unaltered pit bulls.
That�s what Quigley does at least once a week.
At Spay and Neuter, about 70 percent of the people coming in to get their pit bulls altered are found through Quigley�s outreach program.
�Now we�re down to the people who we have to go out and find,� Quigley said. �The people who wanted to follow the law, for the most part, got it done. We�re getting into the people who don�t want to get their dogs altered.�
Pit bulls aren�t hard to find in Kansas City�s urban core. They are chained and used as guard dogs; fenced and displayed as status symbols; even trained for fighting.
�It�s the breed of choice,� Quigley said. �They�re part of the urban culture.�
Bless the Bullys