LOUISBURG — The pit bull breed ban in Louisburg has been officially lifted.
The City Council took action at its June 6 meeting to lift the ban and at the same meeting passed two new ordinances designed to strengthen the dangerous and vicious animal laws inside the city limits.
Both ordinances were unanimously approved by the five-member council and went into effect June 15 after publication in The Miami County Republic, the official city newspaper.
Lifting the bull breed ban was welcomed by Louisburg resident Joshua Smith, who in March had asked the council to amend city code and remove breed-specific language regarding pit bull breeds. Breeds that fall under the “pit bull” umbrella are the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Bully.
“Through constructive conversations with our City Council and mayor, it’s my sincere belief that it was handled objectively and as pragmatic as it could’ve been,” Smith said. “As shown in my submitted documentation to the board, I provided examples of what I, a citizen of Louisburg, was ultimately looking for and to provide a north star for our council to look for in drafting the ordinance. I feel my goal was shared by our council members. I also believe that by removing the breed-specific language, we also hold irresponsible animal owners to task.”
The documentation Smith provided to the council included information from professionals and organizations that oppose breed-specific bans.
One such organization is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which opposes breed-specific legislation.
“There is no evidence that breed-specific laws reduce dog bites or attacks on people, and they divert resources from more effective animal control and public safety initiatives,” according to HSUS. “Breed-based policies are based on myths and misinformation, rather than science or credible data. Their impact on dogs, families and animal shelters, however, is heart-breakingly real.”
Conversely, the Louisburg council’s deliberation attracted the attention of the National Pit Bull Victim Awareness (NPBVA) organization, which opposed lifting the ban on bull breeds. NPBVA advocates for more than 70 organizations and social media groups in the United States and Canada, according to its website.
In an email to the Republic, Patricia Dunaway, a volunteer with the organization, provided documentation from San Bernardino County, reported to be the largest in the nation and engulfs an area of California that is larger than four combined states on the East Coast.
The report for the unincorporated areas of the county and the contract cities it serves is condensed to only breeds that recorded “severe” bits. Among these breeds, the county recorded 602 bites in 2020.
Pit Bulls were No. 1 on the list with 179 total bites, 39 of which were classified “severe.” German Shepherds (including law enforcement K9s) recorded the second most at 58 bites, with two being severe. The other top breeds on the list were Labrador, 38 bites, three severe; Shepherds, 37 bites, 12 severe; Dobermans, 33 bites, 19 severe; and Chihuahuas (short haired), 31 bites, three severe.
“Every year has resulted in the same,” Dunaway said in an email.
The recent trend in Miami County and the surrounding area is to lift the ban on bull breeds.
At the March council meeting, Smith provided members with examples of several area communities that have lifted bans on bull breeds including La Cygne, Fort Scott, Prairie Village, Paola and Overland Park.
Paola lifted its ban in December 2020, and Overland Park repealed its ban in September 2021.
Earlier this year, a Johnson County District Court judge ruled Leawood’s ordinance banning bull breeds was unconstitutional because of its vagueness in describing how to identify a pit bull.
At the Louisburg council’s April 4 meeting, council member TJ Williams reached a similar conclusion as he talked about how hard the code is to enforce for police officers because it is difficult to identify dogs by breed, particularly mixed breed dogs.
“Can you tell just by looking at every dog whether it’s 25 percent pit bull or not, and that sort of thing? So that’s a problem,” Williams said. “… Outside even the proof that Joshua is giving, it feels like it probably needs to be removed just from the enforceability perspective.”
Williams said he thinks the council also needed to talk about possible revisions to existing city code regarding vicious animals.
“I think we need to look at that a little further, especially in light of removing this,” Williams said.
Louisburg’s new ordinance addressing dangerous animals reads in part:
“Under the new ordinance a dangerous animal is one that is defined that either attacks or bites any person or domestic animal or has attacked or bitten a person or domestic animal; the animal has a known propensity, tendency or disposition to attack, cause injury or threaten the safety of persons or domestic animals; such animal which in a vicious or threatening manner approaches any person in apparent attack upon that person while on the streets, sidewalks or public grounds or places or on private property; or any animal because of its size, physical characteristics and vicious propensities is capable of inflicting serious physical injury or death to a person.
An animal will not be deemed dangerous if it were protecting the premises from willful trespass; if a person was provoking, teasing, tormenting, abusing or assaulting the animal; a person was attempting to commit or committing a crime; or if another animal was provoking, tormenting, abusing or assaulting the animal.
The owners of such animals can be cited and ordered to appear in Louisburg Municipal Court.
If the court determines the animal is dangerous, the animal can be destroyed by humane means, ordered to be removed from the city or allowed to stay inside the city limits with several stipulations.”
To read the full text of the ordinance, see the legal notice printed in The Miami County Republic’s classified section in the Wednesday, June 15, edition.
“Louisburg is growing, and I felt any opportunity that could be taken to make our community a more inclusive one is beneficial,” Smith said in a follow-up email. “And to remove antiquated ordinances so we (as other surrounding communities have done) to achieve that, will allow one less stumbling block for an incoming family that may or may not fall under the previous, hard to enforce, and subjective ordinances.”
Smith said Louisburg is proving citizen engagement is listened to by their representatives and appreciated.
“I’m grateful for our community, their decision, and look forward to many families being able to have and appreciate some of these canines that have been labeled throughout time as ‘The Nanny Dog,’” Smith said. “As a father to three little girls and having served our country, safety is paramount to me and my community.”