Roeland Park removes pit bull ban on split vote, temporarily limits one pit bull per house

A long line of speakers Monday generally supported removing the breed specific ban from the Roeland Park animal control ordinance.
A long line of speakers Monday generally supported removing the breed specific ban from the Roeland Park animal control ordinance. Kelly Davis was one of the supporters for the changes that dropped the breed specific ban.

After months of discussion and public comment, the Roeland Park City Council passed a new animal control ordinance Monday night that removes the breed specific ban. It was that section of the old ordinance that banned pit bulls from the city. The pit bull ban had its origins in a citizens petition brought to the council many years ago.

The vote to approve the ordinance was split with councilors Michael Rhoades and Ryan Kellerman, the two newest members of the council, voting against it. While each of the other councilors voted to pass the ordinance, some did so in spite of objections to an amendment proposed by Mayor Joel Marquardt. The addition limits pit bull ownership to one per household until January 2018. Otherwise, each resident can have two animals in the house and can have up to four by obtaining a city permit.

Councilors Jennifer Gunby, Megan England and Teresa Kelly all voiced some objection to the additional language that was added Monday night. England said she was “saddened and disappointed in the council” for “going against best practices” in adding the temporary restriction on pit bulls. “Talking and working with people from both sides is more than important,” Marquardt said during the debate over the amendment. “I believe the compromise is pretty fair.”

Rhoades talked about cases where pit bull bans were repealed and attacks occurred afterward. “I would hate to see something bad happen to someone in this community,” he said. Kellerman said the original ban was brought by citizens after pit bull attacks in the city. He called the animal control changes “the rearrangement of codes to meet a personal agenda.” The animal control changes had been championed by Gunby who prepared much of the text of the new ordinance. Kellerman suggested putting the question on the April ballot for the public to decide. He said the process was “information overload and micro-managed.”

The majority of the members of the public who commented on the ordinance Monday favored removing the ban on pit bulls and praised the new ordinance for its sections on dangerous and vicious animals.  The speakers included volunteers and staff with area animal shelters who all supported the changes to the ordinance. Courtney Thomas, CEO of Great Plains SPCA, said the breed specific ban gave residents a false sense of security.

Only one speaker was opposed, citing a neighborhood dog attack some years ago. Janelle Holland related that she had to move from Roeland Park to Mission because she had a pit bull and was given the choice by animal control of moving or giving up the dog.

“I am so proud of each and every one of you for repealing the breed specific ban,” Robin Rowland, a vice president at Wayside Waifs and Roeland Park resident, said.