Pitbull ban opposition presents itself at council meeting

City Council
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The Monticello City Council Chambers were full on Nov. 5. Between residents wanting the city’s pitbull ban lifted and high school students there on assignment, the room was full.

     Two items on the city council agenda called attention to the pitbull ban. Whitney Boysen of Monticello filed an Open Records request with the State of Iowa requesting any and all information from the city administrator, city staff, and city council members related to the breed ban, either in support of or against the ban.

     City Administrator Doug Herman did provide Boysen with some information he received via e-mail from Nick Miller and Brian McDonald, both in support of keeping the ban. However, Boysen is requesting all forms of communication on the matter (text messages, e-mails, letters, etc.) dealing not only with pitbulls, but other breeds as well.

     “I want as much information as I can get,” she said.

     Herman explained for the city’s technology provider (ITS) to carry out the request, it could cost $100 an hour per device or e-mail account. Boysen asked the city to waive or reduce that fee.

     The council was 100 percent against waiving the fee, saying it would not be right for the taxpayers of Monticello to foot that bill for her request. Herman said if her Open Records request wasn’t so broad, it might not take so much time to find the information.

     Herman said the city has responded to Open Records requests in the past, but those that are more specific. He said this open-ended request requires more time and resources.

     Boysen told the council her intent is to prove whether the council truly is receiving contact from other residents wanting the pitbull ban to stay in place.

     Council members Butch Pratt and Tom Yeoman said to complicate matters more, they get comments in-person from other residents up and down the street in favor of the ban. They said those comments won’t be part of the collection given to Boysen as part of her request.

     Herman said he would firm up the fee with ITS and present the amount to Boysen before proceeding.

     The council also unanimously passed the second reading amending the Animal Protection and Control Ordinance. The main points of the amendment allow for a provision for pitbulls to be emotional support animals (through Oct. 1, 2018), to tighten up the rules pertaining to other non-pitbull (all other breeds) bites, and to clearly define a “vicious dog.”

     This matter drew a lot of criticism from the public in attendance calling for the pitbull ban to be lifted.

     Mayor Brian Wolken said he received a handful of e-mails from people living in Monticello and outside of town asking the city to remove the ban. Several council members said they also received similar correspondence.

     Jo Provencher said the city needs a new ordinance based on animal behavior, and not breed-specific.

     Terry Reynolds offered, “A dog’s breed is not the only factor on how they behave.

     “It’s time for a new animal ordinance that doesn’t include the breed of the dog,” she continued.

     Josh Smith said there clearly seems to be a lot of emotion tied to both sides of the controversial matter.

     “You need to discuss the logic behind this,” he said. “There is bias out there because of fear, fear of the unknown.” Smith said those on the other side of the issue fear pitbulls because of misinformation, which leads to “unknown fear.” He said the city is therefore choosing to keep the ban in place simply based on “that unknown fear.

     “Most people are afraid are to come forward,” he said of those wanting the ban to remain.

     Goedken said as a city council member they represent all citizens of the city, not just those wanting the ban lifted. In response to Smith, Goedken asked if the council should disregard others’ opinions of pitbulls because the other side sees them as invalid. “They are entitled to have an opinion just as you are,” Goedken said.

     “We have facts and statistics,” Smith said. “I hope when we present the proper information, you lift the ban.”

     Tracy Tuel was in line with other sentiments shared at the meeting as well. “You need to hold the owner accountable for the dog’s actions,” she said. “A breed-specific ban is ignorant. This is a ban based on opinions; you need to look at the facts. And every dog can bite.”

     With one more reading until the amendments are official, Herman asked the committee of himself, Police Chief Britt Smith, and Council members Chris Lux, Dave Goedken, and Pratt to reconvene to fine-tune the ordinance once more before the final reading and potential passage.

 

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