MADISON (WKOW) – The debate over breed-specific legislation to control pets has hit Madison.
This week, the Madison City Council will discuss an ordinance proposal that would require dogs deemed pit bulls to be spayed or neutered.
District 14 Alder John Strasser says many neighbors in his area have complained about what he calls "backyard breeders" – dogs constantly reproducing and overpopulating shelters. He says it's having a negative impact on the dogs and the community.
"It's proven that an altered animal is less aggressive, is less likely to go roaming," Strasser tells 27 News. "These are secondary to the main reason for the ordinance though. The main reason for the ordinance is a reduction in the population that's flooding the shelter system."
Dane County Humane Society spokesperson Gayle Viney confirmed well over half of all dogs euthanized at the shelter between 2011 and 2013 were classified as pit bull mixes. Viney says the high rate of pit bulls put down at the shelter can be skewed by how often the dogs are misidentified.
That problem is the reason pit bull advocates are against breed-specific legislation. Peter Anderson, with a local rescue called Midwest Area Pit Stop, refers to a recent study by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. That report finds in 80 percent of all dog bite fatalities across the U.S., the dog could not be reliably identified.
"If you were actually were to look underneath the skin, the DNA of the dogs that are a problem in the community, you might be shocked to find what they are," says Anderson. "Look at things that set up dogs to become failures and then if we start collecting that information rather than breed information, then society is safer."
Anderson says he thinks all dogs should be spayed and neutered, but legislation should not target pit bulls. Strasser says the issue is not with the dogs but the people who own them and don't care for them, decreasing the animal's value. He hopes his proposed ordinance would make people treat pit bulls better in the long run.
Some pit bulls would be exempt from the spay/neuter requirement, including those under five-months-old, show dogs, working or retired police dogs, and dogs that can't be altered without compromising their health.
Strasser says the ordinance would use the American Dog Breeders Association's American pit bull terrier breed standard as a guide for animal control officers to follow in identifying a dog as a pit bull. The standard looks at eight traits of physical appearance and demeanor.
The ordinance would be mostly on a complaint basis, so when animal control responds to a call officers would ask for documentation from the dog's spay or neuter. The owner would have a chance to comply, if not, they would be required to pay a $500 fine that doubles on a second violation.
The ordinance would allow for a dog owner to appeal a decision, with the final authority coming from the board of health.
Anderson tells 27 News he worries the ordinance would target a less fortunate population that wouldn't be able to afford fines or surgery for their dogs. He says the proposal targets the wrong issue. Anderson believes the solution is educating dog owners and children how to behave near and properly raise a dog. His organization focuses on those efforts, by reaching out to the community.
Dane County Humane Society has historically not favored breed-specific legislation. The organization released the following statement Monday:
"We welcome the opportunity to be more involved in assisting the City of Madison and Dane County in its regulatory efforts on this issue and will look to other organizations that have studied the issue of mandatory spay/neuter programs, including the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), American Humane Association, Best Friends Animal Society, and others," says Gayle Viney, DCHS Public Relations Coordinator. "Until the ordinance is fully understood and examined, DCHS has no further comment at this time."
The ordinance will be introduced to the city council Tuesday night. It will require public comment and approval in a variety of committees.
MADISON (WKOW) -- A Madison alderman wants to require that all pit bulls over the age of 5 months old be spayed or neutered. This is based on the local over population that is putting stress on the Dane County Humane Society and the city's animal services officers, Alderman John Strasser tells the Wisconsin State Journal.
From 2010 to 2012 over half the dogs that were euthanized at the Humane Society were pit bulls. This proposal goes before the city council on Tuesday. The ordinance will allow for specific exemptions such as show and service dogs.
The ordinance itself will be studied by a couple committees and if they are in support it could be in effect by March.
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