A split city council voted to retain Gardner’s existing animal ordinance after much discussion Monday night. The code does not ban specific dog breeds like pit bulls. Instead, it bans any animal with a known propensity to attack unprovoked.
Council member Kristina Harrison made the initial motion to keep the current ordinance, but Council member Larry Fotovich said he expected to vote on an ordinance that banned pit bulls.
“The interaction we had was to let us vote for or against a breed-specific ordinance,” Fotovich said. “Do we have a breed-specific ordinance we’re voting on?”
During a recent meeting, Fotovich said interim city administrator Melissa Mundt said city staff would work with city attorney Jim Hubbard to write an ordinance that bans pit bulls.
“I don’t recall ever seeing any breed specific ordinance,” Hubbard said.
Council members Fotovich and Chris Morrow said they’d like to see tighter regulations placed on those who own pit bulls. The breed was responsible for a large percentage of bites in Gardner last year, Fotovich said, and pit bull owners often need an additional rider to insure the homes in which the breed resides.
Fotovich suggested only allowing pit bull owners to own one dog; they be required to have a fenced yard; the dogs can never be tethered; and that male pit bulls within city limits must be neutered. He said those recommendations are based on information council members received from a local veterinarian.
Council member Brian Broxterman asked where breed-specific banning would end if the city adopted a pit bull ban.
“If we were to go with pit bulls, we’d need to ban German Shepherds,” Broxterman said. “Because they bite as much and then we’d need to do cats.”
Shepherds and pit bulls were responsible for the majority of dog bites within Gardner city limits, however cats bit more people than dogs in recent years.
Council members debated the topic last spring and reached a consensus not to ban specific breeds. However, concerned residents complained to council members at a recent meeting about several pit bulls dogs at one home. Neighbors told council that those dogs were vicious and mistreated.
Several Gardner residents – some tearfully – asked that pit bulls not be banned during the Sept. 6 meeting.
“This isn’t a breed problem or a breed specific problem,” Joshua Smith, Gardner, told council members. “Any dog can be dangerous. It’s an owner problem.”
Christy Barrero, Gardner, said she would leave town rather than get rid of her pit bull, which she called “her family.”
“I have a pit. Her name is Aspen,” Barrero told council members. “She’s my best friend. I got divorced, and she’s all I fought for. She’s never been harmful to anyone. She doesn’t even chase after squirrels. My pit is my family member, and I would leave Gardner if I had to.”
A dozen residents addressed the council about the issue and none wanted to see a breed specific ban.
Harrison said she received more than 27 emails on the topic, and they overwhelmingly preferred a vicious dog ordinance to a pit bull ban, she said. She visited the neighborhood and the home where residents had complained about a pit bull pack.
“Quite frankly, the dogs were just laying in the yard,” she said.
Morrow said it wasn’t simply the number of dog bites that were attributable to pit bulls in the last several years – his concern is that pit bull bites and attacks account for a larger percentage of deaths nationally.
In 2010, there were 33 fatalities attributed to dog bites. Of those, 22 were pit bull attacks, he told the council.
“Do I think it’s a publicsafety concern? Yes,” Morrow said.
He said he’d like to see more stringent guidelines for pit bull owners, including a fence requirement with signs warning of dangerous dogs and a requirement that pit bulls be supervised while outdoors.
“None of this seems unreasonable to me,” Morrow said.
In the end, the arguments of Fotovich and Morrow did not persuade council members Harrison, Broxterman and Dennis Pugh to adopt a breed specific ban or more stringent language for specific breed owners in the existing ordinance.
In other business, council members:
• approved the purchase of a new half-ton truck for the public works department. They authorized $22,055 for the purchase.
Public Works Director David Green told council members the truck will replace a 2001 Dodge pick-up with 135,000 miles on it. Green said the vehicle has transmission problems and pictures included with the council packet revealed a severely damaged dashboard.
Green said the truck is one of two used by public works employees to flush lines. The second truck is scheduled to be replaced next year. Morrow asked if the purchase of the truck this year might alleviate the need to replace the other truck next year. Green didn’t commit to whether that would be true.
• approved a contract with Cordray Construction for a roof replacement at Hillsdale Water Treatment Plant.
• approved an amendment to extend a contract between the Johnson County Board of Commissioners and the city of Gardner for water supplied to New Century AirCenter.
• adopted a resolution agreeing to allow Johnson County Wastewater to provide sanitary sewer service to Gardner Lake. The agreement allows the county to move forward to create a benefit district, which will include some Gardner residents, for sewer lines at the lake.
• approved an agreement to allow H.W. Lochner to engineer airfield drainage improvements at the Gardner Municipal Airport.