Pit bull ban dominates discussion at Roeland Park community forum; most speakers want it removed

These pit bulls were part of an obedience demonstration at R Park this fall, but it took a special exemption from the animal control ordinance to allow them in Roeland Park.
These pit bulls were part of an obedience demonstration at R Park this fall, but it took a special exemption from the animal control ordinance to allow them in Roeland Park.

A Roeland Park community forum Monday had three topics for discussion, but proposed revisions to the animal control ordinance drew the majority of the crowd and by far the most comment. Most of the two dozen comments from the audience focused on whether the city should continue its ban on pit bulls.

A wide majority of the speakers want the breed-specific ban dropped and approved of the approach in the proposed ordinance to strengthen language regarding dangerous animals, vicious animals and nuisance animals. A few speakers, though, did ask that the pit bull ban be continued in the city.

Karen Stroud was one of the first speakers and talked about a case of a pit bull attacking a child. She said it is “the wrong thing” to have pit bulls. Other residents related incidents where they personally had been attacked by other breeds.

Among those lobbying to keep the ban was a letter carrier who said he had been attacked by different breeds 12 times over his 35 years. He contended wounds left by pit bulls are more serious. Another speaker contended that pit bulls are stronger and capable of inflicting more serious wounds.

However, more than four times as many people favored lifting the ban and controlling dogs through the new provisions for vicious or dangerous animals that they said would make everyone safer. Several people with experience working with animal shelters or training dogs said the pit bulls present no more risk than other breeds. Scott Ferrel, who works in the insurance industry, said pit bulls show no greater liability based on claims history.

Janelle Holland said she moved out of Roeland Park when confronted with the choice of giving up her dog or leaving the city. A common refrain during the comment period was that the “problem is with the owners, not the breed.”

The revised ordinance could come before the council in December at the earliest. City Councilor Jennifer Gunby outlined the changes being proposed in the ordinance.