PAOLA — The Paola City Council has decided to lift the city’s ban on the pit bull dog breed and instead focus on encouraging good pet ownership by increasing the penalties for code violations associated with unregistered animals.
The vote took place during the Dec. 8 council meeting, but the discussion began back in the spring of 2018 when Paola residents Shannon and Eric Czepcinski asked the council members to lift the city’s ban against pit bulls and replace it with a ban against dangerous animals.
In July of 2018, the council unanimously voted to keep the city’s ban on pit bulls in place.
Council members have continued to discuss the issue at work sessions since that vote, and those who voted to lift the ban during the latest Dec. 8 meeting said a majority of other cities have already moved from breed-specific bans to a ban on dangerous animals.
The city’s ban on dangerous animals remains in place. The ordinance defines a dangerous animal as “any dog or cat having a disposition or propensity to attack or bite any person or animal without provocation.”
Paola Police Chief Don Poore thanked the council for making the change, which means his officers will no longer need to try and determine the breed of a dog. Poore’s officers will soon be more heavily involved in animal complaint and control issues because Curt Kennon plans to retire from the city’s part-time code enforcement officer and animal control position.
In addition to lifting the ban on the pit bull dog breed, the newly adopted ordinance also amends the registration fee for dogs and cats, amends the impound charges for dogs and cats, and amends the penalties for unregistered animals.
Under the new guidelines, a dog or cat owner must pay an annual tax of $5 for any neutered dog or cat and $10 for any unneutered dog or cat. Those annual taxes jump to $15 and $30 respectively if an unregistered dog or cat is picked up by animal control.
Any dog or cat found running at large within the city limits shall be taken by a police officer to the Osawatomie pound, after which the owner will have 120 hours (five days) to claim the animal and pay an impounding fee of $15 plus an additional fee of $10 for each day the animal is impounded. After the five-day window, the animal could be destroyed, but if the animal is licensed, the owner will be notified at least 24 hours in advance, according to the ordinance.
New council member LeAnne Shields said she was shocked to hear that animals could be put down after five days, and she thought more was being done to work with local non-profit groups to find homes for the animals.
Poore said he and his officers work closely with the officials at the Osawatomie pound, and although they legally could put an animal down after five days, he said they typically hold them much longer as they work to find good homes for the animals.
The “penalties” portion of the ordinance also states that any person guilty of violating any of the provisions listed could be fined up to $500 and/or be imprisoned up to 30 days.
“For violations that occur prior to an animal’s registration, the penalties shall be more punitive,” the ordinance states.
Councilman Dave Smail was the sole council member to vote against the ordinance. Smail has repeatedly expressed his concern about allowing pit bulls in the community, and although he said he agrees with most of the ordinance, he said the statistics still show that pit bulls are more likely to be dangerous.
“In all good conscience, I can’t vote for this ordinance,” Smail said.
Council member Leigh House said she, too, still has some concern about the pit bull breed, but her hope is that the new ordinance will make it easier for police officers to enforce the code, and it will encourage more pet owners to get their animals registered.
Councilman Trent Upshaw said he likes the new ordinance because it brings Paola in line with a majority of other cities, and it puts more teeth into the fines for unregistered animals.
The ordinance was approved by a vote of 3-1, and it will become effective Jan. 1, 2021.