Pit bulls are OK, city council members agreed during a work session on May 9.
The city of Gardner allows pit bulls within city limits, despite bans on the breed in neighboring cities including Spring Hill and De Soto.
Council members debated making changes to Gardner’s pet ordinance, but after debate which
included comments from local pet lovers and a local veterinarian, council members decided that the existing ordinance which prohibits “vicious pets” is working well for the city.
The current pet ordinance allows Gardner residents to own a total of four animals including dogs and cats, but excluding “vicious” animals.
Residents are asked to license each pet with a $14 fee for pets that aren’t spayed or neutered and $7 for each pet that is. However officials theorize that there are far more pets in the city limits than there are licenses. Council member Larry Fotovich wondered if there was any way to enforce licensing, because the city spends approximately $80,000 each year for animal control-related issues.
Those with unlicensed pets are rarely caught unless they’re animals are picked up roaming at-large.
“When I impound them, I can say, do you have tags? Here’s a ticket. But short of going door-to-door, I’m not sure,” Willis said.
Willis said the existing ordinance is effective.
“In my opinion, I don’t see anything that needs to be changed in the ordinance,” Willis said.
“We’re kind of in the norm of what every city is doing,” Gardner Police Captain Jim Moore told council members. “…The ordinance gives us the opportunity to address each individual animal.”
When a resident reports a vicious animal or a dog bite, animal control officer Jason Willis investigates and then writes a report. From there, Gardner’s chief of police, Ken Francis, can decide to have the animal removed from the city limits. The entire process can take as little as a week.
Veternarian Elaine Mertz said a city ordinance that once prohibited a variety of breeds was changed at the request of residents who owned bull terrier show dogs. Under an old ordinance, the dogs were banned from the city.
“Those dogs fell within the restrictions,” she told council members. “…They’re totally unrelated to pit bulls.”
Mertz said at her vet clinic in Gardner, she rarely holds pit bulls for rabies observations.
“That breed isn’t any more prevalent in biting than any other breed,” she said.
Council member Chris Morrow said the lack of a pit bull ban may keep potential residents – especially those with small children — from moving to town. According to research he presented to the council, 78 percent of pit bull owners acquire the dogs to enhance their owners’ images, for use as guard dogs or for fighting.
“I’m not saying people that already have them, I’m talking about a pit bull ban moving forward,” he said.
“You’re almost saying every pit out there is going to take your arm off,” Captain Moore responded. “It’s not that way.”
“The people who get dogs for image enhancement – those people are going to find a dog that fits that image,” she said. “(With a ban), they’re going to get rotties, or Dobermans or German Shepherds instead of pit bulls. I would rather see a pit bull.”