Poplar Bluff pit bull owners will face new restrictions

Friday, February 14, 2003

Daily American Republic

POPLARBLUFF, Mo. -- "Desperate times call for desperate measures" is a statement that rings true for the Poplar Bluff Animal Control officers, as they face an increasing number of dangerous and vicious pit bull terriers within the city limits.

The only option left, according to the officers, is placing restrictions on the owners of the breed within the city of Poplar Bluff.

Animal control has seen a major increase in the number of pit bulls locally in the past two years. Officers say that the normal number of pit bull bite suspects lodged in the pound in one month is usually two to three. During the summer months, it is not uncommon for that number to reach eight to 12.

"We are still in workshop mode at this point," said Lt. Col. Roy Lowe of the Poplar Bluff Police Department. Animal control supervisor Karen Coleman and animal control officers are working to gather ordinances from other cities for comparison, he said.

Chris Browning, Fred Crook, Mark Cox and Vicky Brown, members of the Animal Control Advisory Board, have been compiling a list of restrictions, including at least a $50,000 insurance policy per dog and that all pit bulls must be kept in a pen -- not just on a chain.

"We feel that the sooner we can get this going, the better," Lowe said. "We are really working on these right now so we can have something to present to the city attorney."

Lowe said that the city attorney will check the legalities of the ordinance and then it will be presented to the city council for approval. Animal control officers have already been working on this for the past six months.

"Children are one part of our community and we have to protect them," Lowe said. "And many times our police officers are sent into situations -- whether domestic or drug-related -- and they are confronted with one or more pit bulls that are very aggressive.

"We want to stress that we are not breed-banning," said Lowe. "We are just trying to find a way to keep our children and officers safe."

"It also puts our animal control officers in danger because they are the ones who come and capture the dog for us," he said.

Lowe said such animals aren't just pit bulls, but any dog that seems dangerous.

However, pit bulls seem to be the majority of police problems. Animal control officer Bill Locke said he's going through paperwork right now comparing pit bull bites to other dog bites.

"I'm not even all the way through the paperwork, but I would say that 80 percent of the bites are pit bulls," he said.

Animal control officer Mark Hastings said facing an enraged pit bull is a scary experience. "You can mace them, hit them and it doesn't seem to faze them," he said. "It just makes them more mad.

"They only have one thing on their mind and that is to take you down. You can't change their minds."

The officers have also been faced by more than one pit bull. They say the best thing in this situation is strength in numbers.

"Having more than one is really the worst-case scenario," said Locke. "We will both go out on the call."

Hastings said with multiple officers, one will go after one dog and the other after another and watch out for each other. The best way to take the dogs down, he said, is to tranquilize them.

Locke and Hastings said people against restrictions should realize what the animal control officers face each day.

"They need to put themselves in our shoes," Hastings said. "When you go up to a house and there is a pit bull and the only thing on his mind is to bite you -- I would have to say just put yourselves in our shoes."

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