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Why pitbull-type dogs are banned

By Staff | Jun 13, 2017

Editor’s Note: This article giving the other side of the city of Estherville’s ban on pit bull type dogs was mostly written and scheduled for the May 25 issue of the Estherville News, and has been held pending a statement from the city and police department, and attempting to reach people who had witnessed the April 8 altercation between the dogs in question and another dog. The Estherville News was unable to speak with any witnesses to the incidents involving the dogs, and received the statement June 7. We publish the article now in hopes of highlighting the government side of the issue.

The city of Estherville released a statement about its dealings with Andrew Tate and his fiance, Ines, the owners of two American Bully dogs who were subject to the city’s ban on pit bull type dogs. The statement is printed in its entirety on page four of today’s edition of the Estherville News.

The Estherville News attempted to reach out to individuals who reported on social media that they had witnessed the attacks by Tate’s dogs, or had further information about the issues, but were not successful in multiple attempts over the past month.

Police Chief Brett Shatto said last month the ban on pit bull and pit bull mix dogs is for the safety of people in the city of Estherville. The controversy over the dogs arose from Andrew Tate’s appeal to the city council to keep his American Bully dogs as emotional support animals for himself and his fiance.

As the Estherville News reported in its May 4 issue, at the May 1 city council meeting, the city attorney explained the differences between an emotional support animal and a service animal.

It doesn’t matter [that the animals are allegedly emotional support animals] under the law, according to city attorney Jennifer Bennett Finn. “Emotional support or assistive animals do serve a purpose of helping people with real, doctor-verified medical conditions like the two of you have. There are psychiatric service dogs, and they are trained for a specific task or to do some specific action to treat a symptom of a medical condition.” Bennett Finn said an example would be if the dogs were trained to sense or predict an anxiety attack and perform a task that would divert or prevent the attack.

As Chief Shatto said in his statement, “The owner has never indicated that his and his fiance”s [dogs] 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 city has had issues with dogs of this breed before.

Early in 2015, not one, but two dogs of the banned breed were running at large. Feb. 7, 2015, a Saturday, at approximately 10 p.m., Estherville Police took a complaint of a white pit bull that was running at large on South Ninth Street near the railroad underpass. A short time later, officers responded to another call about a second white pitbull that had attacked another resident’s dog in the 800 block of 6th Ave. South. Officers captured that pitbull. The dog was impounded at the Estherville City Pound. Officers did not locate the dog who was the subject of the first call.

Sunday morning, Feb. 8, 2015, Estherville Police were called to the Emmet County Animal Shelter to investigate a burglary. Someone had entered the Animal Shelter through the front door and several screens on the shelter’s south side were damaged. It did not appear that any animals were missing or injured, and no property was reported missing.

Monday morning, Feb. 9, 2015, Estherville Police were called to the Estherville City Pound after someone had forcibly entered through the front door. The white pitbull that was impounded Saturday night was gone. Officers believed the animal was broken out by its owner, and attempted to identify the owner of both animals.

Chief Shatto said in his statement, “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.”

“The law protects every citizen within city limits from encountering this type dog termed by definition of dangerous and vicious,” Shatto said in his statement.

The law is in place to protect citizens

One issue with a breed-specific ban, according to pit rescuers, is that a dog that’s thought to be a pit breed is actually a mix – Staffordshire terrier, American bulldog, boxer and/or mastiff. The boxy head, muscular torso and big smile are usually enough to indict a mixed breed dog of impossible-to-know origins on charges of being a pit bull. This does not apply to Tate’s dogs, which were acquired from a breeder source in another part of the state. American Bully dogs are a relatively recent breed with mixed heritage of American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier with the other parent of an American or French Bulldog background.

According to a cooperative study by the veterinary medicine schools of University of Florida and Michigan State University study, animal shelter workers asked to identify 120 dogs by sight scored 36 percent in accuracy. Out of 120 dogs, 25 of which were pit bulls and 95 of which were non-pit bulls, shelter staff identified 55 of them to be pit bull type breeds. Only eight of the 25 actual pit bulls were identified as such by all staff.

Estherville bans one class of dog, the pit bull type, including American Staffordshire terriers, and pit bull mixes, which would include the American Bully dogs owned by Tate.

Those in favor of the ban say the jaw construction of pit bull type dogs makes their bites and maulings the most damaging and possibly lethal.

According to dog bite statistics from CanineJournal.com, the breeds with the strongest bite by pounds per square inch are:

Kangal: 743 psi Doberman: 600 psi English Mastiff; 556 psi Rottweiler: 328 psi African Wild Dog: 318 psi American Bull Dog: 305 psi German Shepherd: 238 psi American Pitbull: 235 psi

As of today, the city does not have a ban or restriction on breed of dog other than the pit bull type.

The objection that owners, not the dogs, may be the problem is supported by evidence from a 2010 study by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality that states there was an 86 percent increase in dog bite related hospitalization stays between 1993 and 2008 in the U.S.

Other studies come down against pit bulls. A July, 2016 article in Clinical Pediatrics , which covered a study of 1,616 consecutive dog bite injuries at a single hospital, states, “Our data were consistent with others, in that an operative intervention was more than three times as likely to be associated with a pit bull injury than with any other breed.”

In short, more children seen in the studied hospital for dog bites required surgery for their injuries than for an injury with any other breed.

The same article says, “Our data revealed that pit bull breeds were more than 2.5 times as likely as other breeds to bite in multiple anatomical locations.”

Research also states nearly half the persons killed by pit bulls were the dogs’ owners and primary caretakers.

Leash laws also play a part: in 2014, loose dogs off their owner’s property inflicted 40 percent of all fatal attacks, a sharp rise from the 10 year average of 24 percent between 2005 and 2014.

The law has been in place since 1989, and according to Chief Shatto’s statement, “has been a respected law observed by the majority of city residents in those 28 years.”