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Should Platteville ban pit bulls?
Proposal sent to Freudenreich committee
1 Tough Guy the pit bull
Tough Guy, this American Staffordshire terrier/blue heeler mix, is owned by Angela Stecklein of Platteville. - photo by Photo by Shelby Stecklein

Most cities or villages have ordinances prohibiting vicious dogs.

Platteville at-large Ald. Mike Denn has proposed banning a specific kind of a dog, commonly called a “pit bull,” from the city.

After one half-hour of discussion, including several negative comments about the proposal, the council decided March 10 to send the ordinance to the city’s Freudenreich Animal Care Trust Fund Committee.

The ordinance as proposed by Denn would modify the municipal code to prohibit owning a “pure bred commonly known as pit bull, pit dog, or pit bull terrier,” including a mix of American Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

“We had an issue already in the city where a woman was walking a small dog, and two pit bulls attacked the dog,” said Denn. The woman was not injured, but injuries to the dog cost $1,700, which owners of the pit bull refused to pay, he said.

Denn said police did not cite the dogs’ owner, but police Lt. Jeff Haas said at the meeting the owners removed the dogs from the city after the incident.

“We’re not going to go around saying we’re going to look for pit bulls,” said Denn. “We’re saying if there’s an incident we’re going to investigate.”

Denn said some insurance companies refuse to write homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies for owners of pit bulls.

Five people registered in opposition to the ban.

“Dogs are only [as] mean as you treat them to be,” said Town of Platteville resident Shelby Stecklein, who noted that 20 dogs have characteristics of the pit bull. She said the ordinance “does not address irresponsible dog owners,” and added the city should enforce leash laws and “general dangerous dog laws” more stringently.

Reaction against the ordinance was much more vociferous online. A Journal online story about the ban one week ago prompted a petition drive by against the breed, with more than 750 people having signed it as of Monday night.

The website estimates the ordinance would cost more than $16,000 to enact in Platteville, based on a formula by the Best Friends Animal Society.

Common Council president Eileen Nickels said she had spoken to a veterinarian who opposes breed-specific bans.

The ordinance would also allow police to seize and, “upon establishing the vicious character of such dog or animal,” kill an animal found off its owners’ property. It would also allow police to kill or tranquilize an animal “to prevent real and immediate personal injury to any person” including the officer.

The StopBSL site said that part of the ordinance would “extend police power in an alarming way,” with “no information about due process or how this ‘vicious character’ is going to be determined.

“Breed discriminatory laws invariably contain a wealth of due process and constitutional violations by their very nature and are expensive and difficult to enforce.  More and more, we are seeing people stepping up to challenge them legally and the breed discriminatory laws being over turned.  More pertinent, is that more and more towns are repealing their old breed discriminatory laws because they have found them to be completely ineffective in making the community safer.”

The ordinance also would own ban dogs owned for dog-fighting. The ordinance would also ban mistreatment of animals, including not sheltering them from inclement weather, “inappropriate size” cages, and not providing “daily contact to provide care and companionship as needed.”

The Freudenreich Animal Care Trust Fund Committee includes two veterinarians and McKinley. The committee meets on the first Monday of March, June, September and December, and its next scheduled meeting — set before the March 10 council meeting — is June 1.