Best Friends Blog
 

Missouri pit bull round-up thwarted for now

Last Monday, I participated in a presentation on the topic of breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL) to an audience comprised of members of the general public, which was acting as a focus group. Such legislation tends to focus these days (though not exclusively) on pit bulls and dogs who look like pitties. Basically, any medium-sized dog with a muscular build and a short coat is targeted.

One of the surprising moments from the presentation was when the audience poo-pooed the idea that police would ever go house to house and forcibly confiscate family pets as part of a BDL enforcement. This group of trusting folks could not imagine that such Gestapo-like tactics could ever take place in America, where one’s home and property are thought to be sacrosanct. In fact, house-to-house pit bull seizures – complete with scenes of family pets being pulled from the arms of crying children – have characterized BDL enforcement wherever it has been implemented. And, in places like Denver, where pit-bull-type dogs are banned outright, even families driving through with a suspect dog have been victimized by BDL.

Little did we suspect as we spoke to a disbelieving audience about such Draconian measures that officials in Sikeston, Missouri, were about to launch a pit bull round-up.

Here is how it went down on Wednesday, December 5, according to reporter Chris Hayes of the St. Louis FOX TV affiliate KTVI:

The reported pit bulls may have no reported problems. Some may not even be pit bulls, like Yulonda Mitchell’s dogs. Mitchell said officers took her brother’s dogs, even though she believed they were bulldogs.

 

She said her family dogs were ‘licensed and up to date on their shots. We did everything, you know, complied with the city ordinance, but they still wanted to remove the dogs.’

 

Chris Hayes asked, ‘This was a family pet?’

 

Mitchell, ‘It was a family pet.’

After witnessing the Sikeston round-up, Hayes contacted Best Friends’ Ledy VanKavage, who heads up our pit bull initiatives and also serves as our chief legislative analyst. Hayes wanted to confirm his understanding that the trend in Missouri, where it applied, was toward the repeal of local BDL ordinances. He also wanted to alert Ledy to the fact that, contrary to the trend, Sikeston was ramping up enforcement of its anti–pit bull law with a round-up that was taking place now.

Ledy, who is also head of the Animal Law Committee of the American Bar Association, swung into action:

I called the city attorney and asked if he knew that the American Bar Association had passed a resolution calling for the repeal of all breed-discriminatory or breed-specific laws and the enactment of good generic dangerous dog/reckless owner laws. He did not, so I emailed him a copy of the ABA resolution, the USDOJ COPS (U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services) book on dog-related incidents and encounters and got a Best Friends’ Action Alert up on Capwiz to time it to coincide with the FOX 2 St. Louis news report. I also immediately emailed the city council members on behalf of Best Friends, asking that they repeal their breed-discriminatory law.

Chris Hayes included a link to the Best Friends’ Action Alert in his online story accompanying the FOX 2 TV footage, and the response was amazing. In the first 24 hours, 300 residents of Missouri had contacted Sikeston’s mayor and city and council members with an email requesting that the city cease its pit bull round-up, repeal its discriminatory law that does nothing to advance public safety, and enact the type of general dangerous dog/reckless owner–based ordinance that has a proven public safety track record. After two days, that number had soared to over 1,300 emails.

The results were positive and immediate. Sikeston suspended its round-up of pit-bull-type dogs, and on Friday, the city manager was claiming that it didn’t really happen that way, etc., etc.

Sikeston’s surreal and seemingly un-American seizure of personal property and, more truthfully for most, family members, is only the most public and painful component of the failure and misrepresentation of BDL as a public safety measure.

Let’s be clear: We all want safe communities, and we certainly don’t want kids or anyone else to be bitten or attacked by a dangerous dog. Unfortunately, the Sikeston law and all others like it are not about confining, managing or removing dangerous dogs from the community. Sikeston’s breed-based law doesn’t target dangerous behavior on the part of dogs or their owners that might pose a threat to the public. Such laws target dogs and their families based on the appearance of the dog and how much their look conforms to that of the target breed in the eyes of the enforcement officer. It doesn’t matter if the dog in question is a gentle family pet, with no history of undesirable behavior. So, pit bulls, pit mixes, and other random short-coated, muscular mutts are at risk, regardless of how well-behaved they are, how social they are, or how many years they have been responsible members of the community simply because the law declares them dangerous by the fact of their birth. Behavior-based dangerous dog laws, on the other hand, go after threatening behavior in dogs of whatever breed and irresponsible owners who encourage or permit such behavior before attacks occur. Proactive enforcement includes management, restraint and confinement requirements as appropriate before anyone gets hurt.

Behavior-based dangerous dog laws actually work in protecting the public from dog bites because they target the real problem rather than play to the pit bull stereotype.

So if you, like our Monday audience, think that the house-to-house seizure of pets is just our version of “black helicopter” paranoia, please check out Chris Hayes’ piece,  and if you live in Missouri, please let your voice be heard through Best Friends’ Action Alert.

Best Friends’ advocacy and legislative work on behalf of pit-bull-type dogs has been spectacularly successful. Over 380,000 dogs so far this year alone have been spared from Sikeston-type injustice thanks to the efforts of Ledy and her team and, of course, thanks to you and your generous support of the work of Best Friends.

 

Francis Battista
Co-founder
Best Friends Animal Society

 

  • dostana

    where the dogs that were seized returned home??

  • krisana simpson

    PS, I have seen nothing about these dogs having been returned to their families. I can’t confirm that they have not but I’ve been watching the coverage closely and never have they mentioned the dogs getting to go home.

  • krisana simpson

    Wonderful article. I am a Missouri resident have have helped counties successfully overturn the BSL bans in Overland and Wentzville with the help of other concerned citizens. We thank you so much for all you do.

  • smiles

    People need to stop looking at the breed of dog so bad. We had a mini-pin, he nipped a 12 yr old girl on the calf of her leg. After 4 weeks there wasn’t even a noticable mark. Yet our house insurance told us that since he was a small dog that they would pay the dr bill with no problems, since it was an accident. 5 months later they forced us to put him to sleep or not have insurance. It didn’t matter that the dog lived with us and had never done anything to hurt our 2 yr old daughter. Dogs are bad when the owners treat them bad or teach them to be bad. Then when someone has a dog that honestly never does anything wrong and an accident happens, it is the innocent they pay the price.

  • Kay Riviello

    I also spoke to the City Manager who stated that nothing of the kind had occurred in Sikeston, that there was no ACO even in this city of 16,000. He stated that building inspectors were requesting licensing information from all dog owners and that no dog was seized. Furthermore we have not been able to locate any resident of Sikeston that would state that a dog was forcibly removed or that they ever attempted to do so. I informed the City Manager that our group would file a lawsuit if they did not repeal BSL in their city to which the City Manager stated that that was already under consideration and that they were already aware of the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that BSL was unconstitutional. Kay Riviello, NY-ARAA.

  • ASh

    It’s not over. A friend of mine who is compliant with Sikeston city law in every way just got a letter saying he wasn’t and that he has until Friday to fix it. He just emailed me a copy of the letter. I know he’s compliant b/c he almost adopted a pit from our org and was concerned about city laws, but then opted to get one from a sikeston shelter instead and talked to me about how big a hassle it was to do everything they wanted but he really loved the dog so he was doing it anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Sarahnicholefreeman Sarah Nichole Fomby

    Our rescue along with 3 other local rescues to Sikeston MO helped the shelter by taking 39 dogs out so they wouldn’t have to be euthanized for this horrendous “roundup” I don’t know the numbers for sure. To my knowledge 3 dogs were seized. :( it breaks my heart because I have several pitties and foster pitties and I dare someone come to my front door and try to take the . We live in a horrible rural area where pits are a dime a dozen. :( noone listens to us in the area until something tragic like this happens. Currently we even have a family of pits in AC an outdoor facility we are trying to get to safety before she has her puppies.

  • Indy

    I’m glad lawyers were useful here. BDL is wrong on so many levels. It doesn’t work.

  • JanK

    I am so thankful for everyone who had a hand in putting a stop to this. I hate that it was ever able to happen.

  • Anonymous

    That would have ended very badly if I lived there and they would have come to my house and “tried” take my dogs. And no, I wouldn’t have cared what happened to me once it started, but they wouldn’t have been able to go to anyone else’s house that’s for sure.

  • Pam

    Craziest thing I have ever heard-what country do we live in?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002019545558 Debbie DiFrancesco

    Please save our beloved misunderstood breed in all cities, towns, counties and states…one day we will be free <3…OH and please let us know if any dogs were returned home <3

  • http://www.facebook.com/pamela.sheetsmccutcheon Pamela Sheets-Mccutcheon

    Soooooooo……..were he dogs returned to their families? or……..????

  • Loretta

    What happened to the dogs that were taken from people? Were they returned?

  • Bev Gebbia

    It comes down to irresponsible pet owners, no matter the breed. I have an American Bull dog mix and he does look simiular to a pit. I would be divestated if something like happened to my “Gator”

  • http://www.facebook.com/Carla.Lynch Karla Lynch

    Are the seized dogs home yet?

  • furfriend

    so were the dogs that were seized returned to their homes??

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697312363 Claire Vinet

    I’m so glad!!!

  • Linda Market

    Good job!! We must continue to get the word out and educate the general public about American Pit Bull Terriers and bully breeds in general. For such a long time “bad” news is all we’ve heard. It is time to get the truth told. Dangerous dogs come in all sizes and breeds. Bad owners usually have bad dogs…..or mistreated dogs!! Lets’ punish the deed not the breed

  • Linda Market

    Good job!! We must continue to get the word out and educate the general public about American Pit Bull Terriers and bully breeds in general. For such a long time “bad” news is all we’ve heard. It is time to get the truth told. Dangerous dogs come in all sizes and breeds. Bad owners usually have bad dogs…..or mistreated dogs!! Lets’ punish the deed not the breed

  • http://www.facebook.com/gala.kremer Gala Kremer

    Thank you

  • Trish

    Great work!

  • Anonymous

    Great blog. Sad that this still happens but education and speaking up is key and so is the internet. Thanks for the blog and all you do to help these dogs.