Indianapolis considers requiring pit bulls to be sterilized

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2009:
INDIANAPOLIS–Indianapolis city/county council member Mike
Speedy on April 24, 2009 introduced an ordinance to make
Indianapolis the biggest city in the U.S. to mandate sterilizing pit
bull terriers.
The introduction comes three years after a breed-specific
ordinance proposed by another Indianapolis councillor met intense
opposition. Her ordinance was watered down into a conventional
dangerous dog law, providing penalities of only $50 for the first
violation and $100 for the second, with impoundment coming only on
third offense.
“An Indianapolis Star review of dog bite data for 2008
revealed that pit bull bites soared 33% from the previous year and
were three times higher than in 2006. Pit bulls also account for
more bites and more severe bites than any other breed,” reported
Heather Gillers of the Star.

Speedy took up the issue after constituent Brenda Hill, 68,
was severely mauled in her own yard in January 2009 by two pit bulls
who escaped from a neighbor. Though Hill survived, the attack
followed a familiar pattern: an analysis of 88 U.S. pit bull
fatalities by founder Colleen Lynn, all occurring in
2006-2008, found that pit bulls are four times more likely to kill a
person off the premises where the dogs live than all other dog breeds
The 2006 political antagonists are again mobilized. Mauled
by a pit bull in 1992, Caress Garten of Indianapolis wrote a book
inspired by her experience, In Defense of Innocents, and has
advocated for dog attack victims ever since. Opposing breed-specific
legislation are–among others– Humane Society of Indianapolis
executive director John Aleshire and Indy Pit Crew founder Cynthia
Speedy perceived, he told ANIMAL PEOPLE, that “This issue
will not be decided by human interests. This issue will be resolved
by concern about the dogs.”
Before introducing his bill, Speedy consulted other voices
within the large and often polarized Indianapolis humane community.
Speedy won the support of Foundation Against Companion Animal
Euthanasia founders Scott and Ellen Robinson, who are respectively
an emergency room physician and the director of a low-cost dog and
cat sterilization clinic known worldwide for high output and a
record-setting low rate of surgical complication. Speedy also won
the backing of Humane Society of the U.S. regional representative
Desiree Bender, who founded Where Angels Run, a pit bull shelter in
Arkansas. Speedy incorporated their input into his bill, which he
calls the At Risk Dog Proposal.
“The At Risk Dog proposal is designed to protect people from
devastating dog bites and pit bull breeds from abuse,” said Speedy.
“Additionally, it requires more humane treatment for all dogs, such
as prohibiting direct point chaining. It introduces higher fines for
violations with unaltered dogs, and requires that all dogs and cats
leaving the Indiana-polis Animal Care & Control shelter be spayed or
“Pit bull advocates have been giving their all for the last
10 years to pit bull specific spay/neuter, adoption, outreach and
training programs with little progress,” Speedy told an April 24,
2009 press conference held outside Brenda Hill’s home. “It is time
that we admit, as a community, that they need legislative help,”
Speedy said. “They are unable to achieve the needed results solely
by voluntary programs. And as I have come to learn, pit bull-type
dogs deserve laws that provide them with extra protection.”
The Speedy bill is similar to ordinances recently adopted in
Omaha, Little Rock, and San Francisco. The Omaha ordinance has
only been in effect for six months, but the Little Rock ordinance
has cut pit bull bite incidents in half, animal services director
Tracy Roark told WTHR Eyewitness News. “There was a day when you
could walk down any street in central Little Rock and see several pit
bulls chained up. You don’t see that anymore,” Roark said.
The San Francisco ordinance took effect in January 2006. “In
the two and a half after the law went into effect, 23% fewer pit
bulls were impounded and 33% fewer were euthanized than in the 2.5
years prior to the law,” San Francisco Department of Animal Care &
Control acting director Rebecca Katz told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Nationally, pit bulls have risen from under 1% of the U.S.
dog population through the first 85 years of the 20th century, and
5% of shelter admissions when the first breed-specific surveys of
shelter dogs were done in the late 1980s, to about 5% of the dogs,
25% of shelter admissions, and 50% of shelter dog killing since
2000. Among the U.S. pit bull population of about 3.5 million,
about a third per year enter shelters, compared with about 5% of the
dogs of all other breeds combined. About one million pit bulls per
year are killed in shelters.
Dogfighting has leaped from near extinction as recently as
1990, with just a few remaining strongholds reported in the South,
to more prominence than at any time since the rise of the U.S. humane
movement in the mid-19th century. And pit bulls have accounted for
half or more of all fatal and disfiguring dog attacks in at least 27
consecutive years.
Older legislation seeking to curtail the problems associated
with pit bulls has typically just banned keeping pit bulls–sometimes
with loopholes based on hair-splitting distinctions among pits and
closely related breeds.
Where strict pit bull bans have been enforced, for example in
Denver for all but 15 months of the past 21 years, they have producd
markedly lower numbers of pit bull bites, fatalities, impoundments,
shelter killing, and arrests for dogfighting. Denver appears to be
the only major U.S. city where pit bulls consistently account for
less than 5% or even less than 10% of dog impounds.
The Cincinnati city council on March 25, 2009 reinforced a
pit bull ban in effect since November 2003 by providing that anyone
convicted of keeping, breeding, selling or transferring ownership
of a pit bull in any way, except through surrender to an animal
shelter, may be sentenced to serve up to six months in jail, twice
the previous maximum penalty of 90 days. “The changes apply to any
dog owner not grandfathered in when the pit bull ban went into effect
in November 2003,” wrote Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Jane
Many Ohio cities enacted pit bull bans of varying strength
circa 20 years ago, after the state had four fatal pit bull attacks
in 1986-1988. Since then, Ohio has had only two more dog attack
fatalities, both by pit bulls, and one of those, in 1993,
resulted in the dog owner being convicted of murder.
Opponents of breed bans and other breed-specific legislation
have repeatedly tried to overturn them on constitutional grounds.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2008 upheld the
constitutionality of breed-specific dog regulation by refusing to
hear an appeal of a case against the Toledo ordinance. The Toledo
ordinance limits possession of pit bull terriers to one per person,
and requires that pit bulls be muzzled when off their home property.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of Toledo in August
2007. The Ohio Supreme Court verdict followed other court decisions
upholding breed-specific legislation in Arkansas, Colorado,
Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, Utah, Washington,
and Wisconsin.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.