Roeland Park debates pit bull ban, unable to ready animal control ordinance for vote

Pit-Bull_Dec-14

Updating its animal control ordinance has become an involved task for the Roeland Park City Council which spent the bulk of its more than three and one-half hour session Monday on the ordinance with councilors throwing out more questions about the specific sections. Much of the discussion revolved around whether to remove the city’s prohibition on pit bulls.

However, lengthy debate also arose over a number of other portions of the ordinance including a long discussion over even how and when to take a vote on the ordinance. Councilors also brought up several new suggestions for other pieces that may be added to the changes. It is now likely that a vote will not come before January.

Michael Rhoades registered his strong opposition to removing the pit bull ban saying the evidence showed pit bulls had a much higher incidence of doing bodily harm in attacks. “The numbers are so drastic,” Rhoades said. He cited court cases and research papers to support his point. “What good will come from repealing the ban?” he asked. “I think if one kid gets hurt from this, that is too many. Let’s protect our kids. I am going to be the voice for the kids in the community.”

Other councilors, including Teresa Kelly and Marek Gliniecki either cited studies to support lifting the ban or questioned conclusions in the research presented by Rhoades. Kelly cited CDC data, saying “there is no accurate way to determine which breeds are more likely to kill.”

Mayor Joel Marquardt also sided with removing the ban. “I think it would be safer without a breed specific ban,” he said. Councilor Sheri McNeil, however, noted that the pit bull ban was the result of a citizen initiative in 1987 when a petition with 123 signers was presented to the council asking for the ban. “The problem I have is that this was a citizen-driven ban,” she said. “This feels wrong to me (to have the council remove it).”

Kelly, though, pointed out that more Roeland Park residents had spoken for removing the ban at a recent community forum and at other council discussions. Three residents spoke on the pit bull ban Monday, two in favor of removing it and one opposed. “I think we have to err on the side of safety,” Rich Weber said, citing his years as a letter carrier. Tom Madigan and Scott Ferrel both supported lifting the ban.

The council was not able to narrow other issues with the animal control revisions sufficiently to get the ordinance ready for a vote at its December meeting. Councilor Becky Fast raised a number of questions about sections of the ordinance other than the pit bull ban and suggested using neighboring cities’ ordinances for guidance. The ordinance will be on another committee agenda next week to review suggested changes.