Leawood may seek resident feedback on Johnson County’s last pitbull ban

At last week's meeting, the Leawood City Council posed the possibility of conducting a community survey about its pit bull ban after a resident argued it does more harm than good. Above, a file photo of Leawood resident Kristi Bond's pit bull Lucy.

Leawood residents may soon have a chance to weigh in on the city’s pit bull ban, the final such ban still on the books in a Johnson County city and one of the last ones in the wider Kansas City metro.

What’s going on? Following some resident’s concerns voiced during the public comment period of last week’s Leawood City Council meeting, city leaders discussed the city’s dangerous breeds ban and raised the possibility of surveying the community about it.

Why it matters: Leawood is Johnson County’s last city to still have language in its city code barring certain breeds of dogs, including pit bulls.

  • Overland Park was the most recent city to repeal its own pit bull ban last fall, following a trend of other Johnson County and Kansas City metro area cities to nix their own bans in recent years.

What exactly is the rule? Leawood’s city code currently prohibits ownership of “dangerous animals”, which includes pit bulls.

  • Specifically, the ban includes Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and American pit bull terriers — or any dog that has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of those breeds, a qualification which has rankled some dog owners who say that code language is too vague.

How it came up: The council’s discussion followed comments from Leawood resident Bob Brettell, whose pit bull, Lucy, was involved in a legal case last April — in which a Johnson County court found Leawood’s pit bull ban to be “unconstitutionally vague.”

  • At the July 5 meeting, Brettell told the city council that the Kansas Animal Control Association discourages “breed-specific” legislation, arguing that they do more harm than good.
  • Brettell urged the council to hold a public forum on the topic.

Key quote: “Good animal owners and their dogs are unfairly punished, and these laws can actually encourage ownership by irresponsible people,” Brettell said.

Where the council landed: Following Brettell’s comments, Ward 1 Councilmember Andrew Osman made a motion to review the city’s pit bull ordinance.

  • When the motion went unseconded, Mayor Peggy Dunn suggested that instead of holding a work session, a community survey might pose a better alternative to get input from residents on the topic.
  • “I believe what I’m hearing is a desire for a public forum,” Dunn said. “If there was an interest in doing something like that, I think it would be a better use of our time to refer to staff the ability to conduct a survey of our residents.”
  • Ward 3 Councilmember Lisa Harrison said she had heard from Leawood residents who prefer to keep the ordinance in place, but generally the number of concerns she has heard from residents about the ordinance is still fairly small.
  • “I have only heard from a handful — meaning less than 10, less than eight, maybe less than six — residents about this issue,” Harrison said. “I don’t believe that it is as hot-button of an issue as some people would like to believe.”

What’s next? The council ultimately decided to give city staff until the council’s August meeting to gather more information on how a community survey might look.

  • A concrete decision about whether a survey will be conducted remains open, but the council will review possible options at its Aug. 1 meeting.