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Police chief, city issue public statement on pit bull ban

By Staff | Jun 13, 2017

It is a fair statement to say that pit bulls are a breed apart and their bark is not worse than the bite.

Most canine breeds will give warning before attacking either by barking or growling. This does not include the pit bull which attacks with no warning. Due to the pit bull’s uncommon breeding history, some peculiar behavioral traits have been created and are most likely due to the unusually high level of the neurotransmitter L-tyrosine. This most likely is the reason the pit bull is quicker to anger than most dogs.

Pit bull statistics show they are frighteningly obstinate with attacks lasting 15 minutes or more. Because they are remarkably insensitive to pain, nothing can stop them including spraying water from hoses, violent blows or kicks. Studies show their body releases endorphins as a natural painkiller which is also addictive. It may be concluded that pit bulls seek pain so they can get the endorphin buzz they crave.

The national statistics on www.DogsBite.org speak volumes. While pit bulls make up only 6 percent of all dogs in the United States, they are responsible for:

n 84 percent of the attacks that induce bodily harm.

n 75 percent of attacks to children.

n 87 percent of attacks to adults.

n 72 percent of attacks that result in fatalities.

n 80 percent that result in maiming.

Municipal ordinances are laws that are enacted and enforced by a village, town or city government for the protection and safety of all who reside within the jurisdiction. In Estherville it is most commonly referred to as the City Code.

The adoption of one such ordinance in 1989 by the Estherville City Council in regard to the pit bull has been a respected law observed by the majority of city residents in those 28 years. The law protects every citizen within city limits from encountering this type dog termed by definition of dangerous and vicious.

The council saw a need to protect residents from any pit bull encounters. Estherville was not alone in taking this stance as communities across the nation also adopted similar laws. Pit bulls are problematic in large cities; mid-sized cities and small towns as well so the ban on this breed in Estherville is justified.

“Our council in 1989 had a vision a preventive effort to thwart any potential threat against the lives on the citizens,” said Police Chief Brent Shatto. Instances have been few but residents obeyed to the statute and acquiesced by removing the dangerous animal as directed. “Historically, owners of pit bulls residing in Estherville are given a two-week warning to remove the animal and compliance was at all-time high.”

City Administrator Penny Clayton said, “National statistics show that from 2005-2016, 65 percent of dog bite deaths nationwide were from pit bulls.”

The city’s ban on dangerous and vicious animals has become a heated situation when a college student claimed his pit bull and his fiance’s pit bull are emotional support/comfort animal. There have been numerous encounters, warnings and charges associated with these two pit bulls being in Estherville. The May 1, 2017, City Council held a hearing with this particular pit bull owner who has been dealing with the police department for a year for being non-compliant. He has received multiple citations for his refusal to comply with the police department and the court’s directive to remove the animals.

Minutes from the meeting show that Chief Shatto explained there have been two incidents where the pit bulls have been involved in altercations with other dogs. The latest incident was on April 8, 2017, when the pit bulls were off leash, attacked and injured a dog on Central Avenue. The chief deemed these pit bulls to be dangerous animals by virtue that they are listed as a dangerous animal pursuant to Estherville City Code section 320.2(3) and 320.2(2)(b).

In a related topic, it is necessary for the public to understand the difference between an emotion support/comfort animal and service animal.

At the council meeting, the city attorney explained that an emotional support animal is not the same as a service animal within the meaning of the American Disabilities Act. Additionally, pursuant to the American Disabilities Act, a service animal is required to do a specific task to assist the person with his or her disability. The owner of the pit bull has never indicated that his and his fianc’s pit bulls are trained to do any specific task. He has only stated the dogs are emotional support animals. Therefore, the American Disabilities Act does not apply.

The council focused on the length of time that the pit bull owner has been in violation of the ordinance, the vicious nature of his dogs and the concern for the citizens of the City of Estherville. Motion affirming the Chief’s ruling for the pit bulls to be removed from Estherville was approved unanimously by a 7-0 vote.

Shatto said, “This is not the first instance of pit bull issues in Estherville and it will not be the last. The general public needs to understand we are not targeting anyone. My department is entrusted with enforcing the City Code. In fact we worked with three cooperative pit bull owners who did have their pets removed from our city since the college student’s case. I am very disheartened by the recent pit bull coverage by the Estherville News. It was one sided and favored the violating dog owners. I don’t believe the information provided to the public was fair and balanced.”