Published Wednesday July 2, 2008
Ralston explores ban on pit bulls
BY RICHARD EGAN
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
There haven't been any recent reports of pit bulls attacking Ralston residents, and the City Council is looking to keep it that way.
As pit bull attacks in Omaha continue to make news, the Ralston City Council is exploring a possible ban on the dogs.
"I haven't met anybody in the last week who is not in favor of a ban," City Council President Jerry Krause said at Tuesday night's council meeting.
Mayor Don Groesser said that although the six registered pit bulls in the city might seem like a small number, the city still will consider the topic. "I think the city ought to look into it," he said. "We're going to look at Council Bluffs' ordinance and follow what Omaha is doing and maybe partner with them."
Council Bluffs enacted a ban on new pit bulls in 2005. Last year, Glenwood, Iowa, instituted a ban modeled after the one in the Bluffs. Carter Lake banned the dogs in late 2004, and Ceresco, Neb., did so in 2006.
Talk of a possible ban in Omaha surfaced after several recent incidents. The most serious occurred June 25, when 15-month-old Charlotte Blevins was attacked and suffered serious scalp injuries while her mother was giving her a wagon ride. Her mother, Wendy Blevins, and two others also were bitten.
Later that day, a 12-year-old boy was bitten about two blocks away from where Charlotte Blevins was attacked. He knocked on a door near 13th and Hickory Streets and was bitten after the dog's owner opened the door. He received stitches at a local hospital.
The next day, an Omaha police officer shot and killed a pit bull after the dog charged at him twice near 40th and Vinton Streets, biting him on one arm.
On Tuesday, a pit bull bit a man near 28th and Sprague Streets who was mowing his lawn. The dog later charged an Omaha police officer and was shot. The man who was bitten refused treatment.
"It's come up in different conversations," Krause said. "I polled probably 15 people, and they all thought there ought to be a ban. I think we should look into it, whether it's a full ban or muzzles, tighter leash laws or heavier penalties (for the owner)."
Ralston has an ordinance regarding any dog or other animal "of a cross, dangerous, or fierce disposition or that habitually snaps, bites or manifests a disposition to snap or bite." The misdemeanor, which requires a court appearance, is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 90 days in jail.
Pam Wiese, vice president of public relations and marketing for the Nebraska Humane Society, said there are six registered pit bulls in Ralston. There are 1,375 in Omaha, 44 in Bellevue, 12 in Papillion and one in Gretna. There was no record of the number of pit bulls in the unincorporated portions of Douglas and Sarpy counties.
"Those numbers are fluid because people move, dogs die, dogs are born," said Wiese, adding that there are some owners who don't register their dogs, including pit bulls and other breeds.
Wiese said the Humane Society historically has been against a ban on a specific type of dog.
"We haven't found one that matches our size of city where the animal control people have said it works."
In Omaha, a committee that will include people from the Mayor's Office, City Council, Police Department, Humane Society and the city's Law Department was formed Monday to explore the possibility of a ban.
All options will be open for discussion, Omaha Mayor Fahey's spokesman, Joe Gudenrath said, including a full ban or restrictions on pit bull owners. "There was nothing taken off the table," he said. "The biggest agreement is something needs to be done."
Instead of a ban on a single type of dog, Omaha currently has strong dangerous-dog and menacing-behavior laws, said Mark Langan, the Humane Society's vice president of field operations. A dog owner in a recent attack was charged with harboring a dangerous animal, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Although those laws kick in after an incident has occurred, Council Bluffs' pit bull ban is designed to prevent any problems by keeping the animals out of the city. Galen Barrett, Council Bluffs' chief animal control officer, said another dog breed has not replaced pit bulls as a major cause of bites. Eighty pit bulls are legally in the city, down from 187 licensed pit bulls in 2005, the year the ban went into effect.
Denver passed its pit bull ban in 1989. It was reinstated in 2005 after the city successfully challenged a state prohibition on breed-specific bans. The number of pit bull bites there dropped from 39 in 2005 to nine last year.
• Contact the writer: 444-1267, richard.egan@...
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