Monday, October 20, 2014

Pit bull lovers bark back at Wellsville ban

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 7/5/2014

WELLSVILLE — The dog days of summer are approaching — and so is a decision on Wellsville’s vicious dog ordinance.

Bill Lytle, Wellsville mayor, said the city council might reach a decision at its 6 p.m. Wednesday meeting at City Hall, 411 Main St., Wellsville, on whether to lift the city ordinance banning Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Terriers from within city limits. The issue is expected to be on the meeting’s agenda, Lytle said, and the council will discuss the matter after hearing from several Wellsville residents and some Franklin County residents during a public meeting Monday at city hall.

WELLSVILLE — The dog days of summer are approaching — and so is a decision on Wellsville’s vicious dog ordinance.

Bill Lytle, Wellsville mayor, said the city council might reach a decision at its 6 p.m. Wednesday meeting at City Hall, 411 Main St., Wellsville, on whether to lift the city ordinance banning Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Terriers from within city limits. The issue is expected to be on the meeting’s agenda, Lytle said, and the council will discuss the matter after hearing from several Wellsville residents and some Franklin County residents during a public meeting Monday at city hall.

After an hour-long meeting Wednesday concluded, Mike McAfee, Wellsville city council member, tallied up the numbers from the discussion. He noted 13 in favor of lifting the ban, six for keeping the ban and two undecided, he said. Toward the end of the meeting, McAfee also brought up the idea of possibly having the issue on the November or April ballot to allow more residents to vote on what they want.

Wellsville’s ordinance was adopted in 2004, Lytle said during the meeting.

Supporters and opponents of the ban shared a variety of opinions. Rene Thuro, Wellsville, a past owner of a pit bull breed and a city letter carrier for Olathe for 13 years, said she had never been attacked by a dog that was considered vicious, including pit bull breeds.

“Anybody who’s been attacked by a dog is usually scared of that breed,” Thuro said during the meeting. “The worst dog attack that occurred for me was by a Great Dane.”

“The Great Dane grabbed me by the arm and pulled me down and held me there for 20 minutes while he chomped on my arm,” Thuro said. “I am terrified of Great Danes, but I know there is somebody two houses behind me that has one and it is harmless. I’ve been attacked by a Shih Zu and a Blue Heeler; none of these dogs are banned.”

Thuro said she delivers mail to 1,159 people per day, six days a week, and has 75 other co-workers who have never been attacked by a pit bull.

“You don’t turn on the news and hear about a German Shepherd attacking someone or a Great Dane attacking someone,” she said. “They are targeting these animals that they consider vicious and those are the only things that we ever hear about. Never do we hear about a breed that isn’t aggressive that has attacked someone, otherwise someone would have heard about my dog attacks.”

Several Wellsville residents, however, cited deadly pit bull attacks in the discussion. State Rep. Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, spoke up during the meeting as a resident with six young children, he said.

“What I struggle with is, at a local level, we have an opportunity to really protect, and that is what the government is supposed to do,” Jones said. “I want my kids to be able to go down and take some packages for me to the post office and I don’t want to have to worry about [pit bulls]. There are other breeds, not even pits bulls, that I worry about. I try to realize I can’t protect my kids at all times and I pray that the owners and neighbors watch out for kids.

“All that being said, I’m also a UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] fan and you never hear Thiago ‘Shitzu’ Alves, you hear Thiago ‘Pit Bull’ Alves, and there is a reason for that because they are dogs that are scary,” he said.

Other arguments were made that breeds of pit bulls are nice dogs, and that it is not so much the breed of dog as it is how the dog is brought up by its owner.

“I grew up around a pit bull, and it was the sweetest dog ever,” Jeff Stellmaker, Wellsville, said. “Having a dog is going to be a lot like every other person ... It is all in the way they are raised and trained. Like when I was in the Army for 11 years, I was an infantryman. I was trained to kick down doors and shoot people. Do I do it? No. Am I going to do it? No. It just all depends on how they are trained. If you train them to be vicious, they are going to be vicious. If you treat them like a member of the family and treat them nice and with respect, that is how they are going to turn out.”

Lytle noted such communities as Spring Hill, Baldwin City, Ottawa and Overland Park currently have bans similar to Wellsville’s. Lisa Roberts, rural Wellsville and registered veterinary technician, said such area communities as Osawatomie and Garnett do not have bans.

“We’re dog people,” Michael Broshears, Wellsville, said during the meeting, “We have dogs, we love dogs. [Our dogs] aren’t bred for viciousness, they’re bred for children. Dogs bred to viciousness, they might be loving to their owner, but if they attack anybody, that’s nasty. That is why there are bans in place and being surrounded by communities with bans already. If we open the door, we are going to open a door.”

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