Prairie Village council advances consideration of repealing ban on pit bulls

Prairie Village’s ordinance currently bans the ownership of Staffordshire pit bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire bull terriers, and dogs that have the “appearance and characteristics” of those dogs.

The Prairie Village city council on Monday directed staff to draw up language that would repeal the existing ban on pit bulls in the city. The proposed ordinance change will come before the council for formal consideration at a meeting in the coming weeks.

The vote to advance the idea of repealing the ban on pit bulls followed more than an hour of discussion among the governing body and as much time in comments from members of the public. More than two dozen people — most of them, but not all, Prairie Village residents — addressed the council asking the city to remove the “breed specific language” from its books, citing evidence that such bans were unwarranted and ineffective, and that responsible dog ownership is the key to ensuring pets don’t pose a threat to people or other animals.

One woman spoke explicitly against the idea of repeal, pointing to medical journal articles documenting the frequency of pit bulls involved in serious dog bit incidents. Another shared the story of a friend who raised rescued pit bulls until she watched one of them jump a fence and kill a neighbor’s dog.

Ward 1 Councilwoman Jori Nelson and Ward 2 Councilman Tucker Poling requested the item be put on Monday’s committee of the whole agenda. Nelson delivered a presentation to the council highlighting reports from organizations like the National Canine Research Council and the American Veterinary Medical Association that argue breed specific bans are difficult to enforce and that there is no evidence that certain breeds pose a higher safety risk than others.

The materials presented by Nelson also noted the declining prevalence of breed specific language both locally and nationally. Here in the Shawnee Mission area, neighboring cities Shawnee, Roeland Park, Fairway and Mission Hills have all removed breed specific language from their books. Overland Park has a ban similar to Prairie Village’s in place. Leawood bans certain breeds, but residents can keep them if they register them as dangerous animals with the city.

The move to at least formally consider repealing the ban had broad support among the council, with Poling, Jori Nelson, Ron Nelson, Chad Herring, Inga Selders, Bonnie Limbird, Piper Reimer, Ian Graves and Terrence Gallagher voting to advance it.

The three members who voted against advancing the ordinance change for discussion at a future meeting were Sheila Myers, Dan Runion and Courtney McFadden. Runion said he wanted to see the city consider reports from medical journals that document the frequency of attacks by pit bulls and the severity of injuries that result. Those materials were included in the packet put before the council Monday at Myers’ request.

McFadden noted that, since the city last took up the idea of repealing its pit bull ban in 2016, the issue of dog bites in the city has not decreased, with law enforcement reporting about two dog bites per month on average. McFadden said she wanted to see the city take action to create and enforce a more effective vicious animal ordinance before repealing the ban.

“We’re still not addressing the issue, which is that we still have problems with dog bites,” she said. “I don’t think that we add more dogs to the issue when we still don’t have preventative factors in place.”

Editor’s note: Upon first publication, this story incorrectly stated that no member of the public spoke explicitly against the idea of repeal. One Prairie Village woman did explicitly speak against the idea of repealing the pit bull ban. The story has been updated accordingly.