Wichita City Council OKs changes in pit bull law

Regulations meant to control pit bulls, set to take effect Jan. 1, underwent some tweaking by the Wichita City Council on Tuesday.

The major provisions of the new ordinance:

* Require pit bull owners to sterilize their dogs.

* Require a breeder's license if an owner wants to keep more than two pit bulls.

* Require pit bulls to be implanted with an identifying electronic microchip.

The council carved out an exemption to the sterilization requirement for current pit bull owners who show their dogs in legitimate dog shows.

Environmental Services Director Kay Johnson said the organizations that regulate dog shows require that the dogs in competition be unaltered.

The council also dropped its ban on dog fighting, which the city could prosecute only as a misdemeanor. Prosecution will now default to state law, which treats staging dogfights as a felony offense.

Another change will require that owners of dogs deemed "dangerous" post a bond with the city if they appeal the ruling.

Out of 9,546 dog complaints so far this year, 2,267 have involved pit bulls, city statistics show.

Of the cases the city investigated, 40 percent of dog attack complaints involved pit bulls. Eighty-four percent of the dogs deemed by the city to be dangerous are pit bulls, the records show.

Johnson told the council that in every case this year where police had to shoot a dog, the dog was a pit bull.

That prompted council member Paul Gray to accuse Johnson of distorting the statistics to justify the breed-specific regulations.

He noted that encounters between pit bulls and police had dropped from 22 in 2008 to 13 this year.

"We continue to talk about this topic every year," Gray said. "I'm just counting the days till you just come to us and say, 'We want a full pit bull ban.' "

Of the dogs themselves, he said, "I don't think the threat is as great as the hype."

Council member Jim Skelton disagreed.

"When I look at a paper and see somebody's baby got its face bit off, it's a pit bull," he said.

The changes to the ordinance passed 6-1, with Gray in opposition.

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