RINGSTED - The Ringsted City Council Monday night turned down on third and final reading an ordinance that would have banned pit bulls from the city.
Out of an audience of a dozen, the vast majority opposed the ban.
Ringsted resident Charley James noted that Rep. Greg Stevens had wanted to go on record against any breed-specific legislation that would have banned pit bulls.
"Right now there are about six messy lawsuits regarding breed-specific legislation going through the pipeline," said James, adding that a person can't tell whether a dog is a pit bull just by looking at it. His solution, rather, was to enforce existing leash laws and other ordinances.
"The City of Waterloo said don't go after the dog - go after the dog owner," said James. "It's (breed-specific legislation) never worked out well."
"There are lots of different ways to go about this," agreed Stephanie O'Brien of Spencer, a pit bull owner. "All of us are on the same page here. We want to keep the residents of Ringsted safe."
O'Brien said existing leash laws should handle any problem.
"The physical appearance of an animal does not make up its behavior," said O'Brien. "There's absolutely no specific scientific study that says this. I have fostered pit bulls in my home. They're wonderful animals."
Another Ringsted resident, Heather Hammond, said the proposed ordinance did not address irresponsible owners, adding, "It promotes discrimination within the community."
Hammond said the solution was not to ban breeds but to hold owners accountable. She said she personally knew of a pit bull that was a registered therapy dog.
"It's not the animals. It's how people take care of them - treat them." She later presented an 85-signature petition against the proposed ban.
"The problem is the owners," said Ringsted resident Steve Starnes. "We need to enforce the standards we've already got."
One resident who appeared to favor the ordinance was Robert Petersen who said one day this fall he was on his bike and a dog came after him. He did not specify the breed.
Then it was the council members' turn to weigh in on the ordinance.
White said she had her mind made up that the city should not have a breed-specific ban, and suggested it be tabled.
Council member Darryl Anderson, noting there were no pit bulls in Ringsted currently, said he hadn't spoken with anyone on Ring Street who was not opposed to having pit bulls in the city.
And council member Wayne Kruse seemed skeptical about some of the petitions signers, saying he was hearing two different stories from them, "One on there (the petition) and one that they told me," Kruse said.
Resident Jessica Wagar asked if passing the ordinance could lead to banning other breeds.
"Is this allowing you down the road to banning other dogs?" asked Wagar. "That's why I signed that petition because I did not want to open that door."
Council member Bill Hansen agreed with Bridges-White, noting that he had received no feedback from any citizens.
"The most information I have heard is from the heartfelt citizens that have come to these meetings," said Hansen, adding that he had changed his mind on the ordinance since the last meeting.
"This is the first time I've seen this many people," observed council member Ken Lowery.
"If there's an ordinance out there, either you follow it or you change it," said Lowery. "I do believe the ordinance is written well."
However, noted Lowery, "The responsibility does fall back on the citizens. The best thing a community can do is police themselves."
Anderson moved and Kruse seconded a motion for passage, which failed. Voting against were Lowery, Hansen and Bridges-White.