ALTOONA, Iowa – Despite controversy regarding the safety of pit bulls as pets, the City of Altoona is changing the language in its dog ordinance so as to not single this specific breed out.
As the current ordinance reads, pit bulls – as well as several other dogs commonly viewed as “dangerous” – are not allowed in city limits. Officers say, however, as you read on in the ordinance, it begins to contradict itself, stating they are allowed, assuming certain provisions are met. Ultimately, the Altoona Police Department says they were spending a lot of time determining if specific owners could keep their dogs or not, even when no dangerous incident had occurred.
“It worked for awhile, but then it got very confusing,” said Detective Jason Ferguson of the Altoona Police Department of the ordinance. “We started getting mixed breeds, (or) the dog looked like a pitbull. Then it got hard for the officers, and the city officials – we’re not experts in the K-9 field. So, for us to be able to say, ‘This dog is this breed,’ – we don’t know.”
The new proposed language for the ordinance doesn’t single any specific breed of dog out. Rather, a dangerous incident – such as the dog biting or attacking someone – would have to occur for law enforcement to step in and deem the dog “vicious.”
“That way it holds the owner responsible, regardless of the type of dog that it is – or animal it is – as opposed to that breed,” he said. “We related it to, you know, ‘You’ve got to have an incident first to get us there.'”
This comes after a pit bull – originally deemed “vicious” and sentenced to death by the City of West Des Moines – was allowed to live and go through rehabilitation last week. Altoona police say, however, the effort to get their city’s ordinance changed has been in the process for much longer than that and is not related. City council members are expected to approve the new language of the ordinance this week.