The Cape Girardeau City Council will look at ways to strengthen its animal control laws but won't ban pit bulls.
The council delivered that message at Tuesday night's council meeting after listening to the concerns of area residents.
Mayor Jay Knudtson advised police chief Steve Strong to work with animal experts in the area to see if new regulations are needed to combat irresponsible pet owners.
A half-dozen dog lovers and area residents urged the city council Tuesday night to crack down on irresponsible dog owners whose aggressive dogs threaten people and other dogs. They said banning dog breeds isn't the answer.
Anita Nocera said pit bull attacks and the dogs running loose are a growing problem in her south-side neighborhood. She also said banning breeds isn't the answer.
But Nocera said the city needs stronger laws to punish irresponsible dog owners. "In the wrong hands, they are dangerous," she said of pit bulls and other dogs.
Nocera said the city needs to impose hefty fines on those who let their dogs run loose or don't adequately restrain them.
Linda Bollinger said her Red Star neighborhood has been plagued with pit bulls running loose and that police haven't always filed reports when residents have complained.
Two pit bulls killed one of her border collies in June and maimed the other, she said.
The deadly attack in her fenced-in back yard involved two pits bulls that had been spotted running loose on several occasions. Bollinger said she doesn't know if the pit bulls jumped over the fence or dug under it.
Bollinger said the pit bulls weren't destroyed and the dogs are now back in the possession of an individual who has them chained up in another part of the city.
Dog obedience instructor Marilyn Olson Neville of Zalma, Mo., urged the council to require pet owners who violate animal control laws to attend classes on how to manage their pets.
Neville said dogs should be kept in secure pens or indoors. They shouldn't be chained outside, she said. That only makes them more aggressive, she told the council.
"If you own a dog, it should be a pet. It should be a companion," she said.
David Roth, president of the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri, said chaining a dog is inhumane.
Roth said the city needs to encourage pet owners to have their dogs spayed and neutered. He said that would help keep the dog population in check and reduce the animals' aggressiveness.
Councilman Charlie Herbst, a former police officer, said it might be hard for the city to step up enforcement of animal control laws without more officers.
335-6611, extension 123