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Des Moines Woman Campaigning to Reform City’s Vicious Dog Ordinance

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DES MOINES, Iowa - Christine Pardee is what you'd call a dog lover. And after two of her own, Gus and Bailey, were attacked by another pair of dogs during a walk, she sought to change the City of Des Moines' dog ordinance.

"The question is, why shouldn't all dog owners be held to the same standards based on an animals behavior," she said.

What Pardee is referring to is the city's vicious dog ordinance. Currently, three specific breeds are automatically deemed vicious: the American Pit Bull, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. If you own one of these breeds - or a dog with part of that breed in its genetics - the city requires you obtain a license, vaccinate the dog, and take out a hefty insurance policy on it.

"Most people are not aware of this because they haven't lived it, and they just don't know about it," she said. "And so, absolutely, the biggest feeling that is coming forward is that people think this is unfair."

Pardee says the dogs who attacked hers were not your stereotypical 'vicious' ones; they were, in fact, small dogs. She says that's the major takeaway for dangerous animals - it's the owner, not the dog, that causes viciousness. Pardee says ending "Breed Specific Language" - or BSL - will allow the city to focus on real solutions for minimizing dog bites and attacks.

"Certain dogs are being held to have certain responsibilities and do things that others aren't, without a really strong justification of why," she said. "Legally, there's actually been an argument that it actually denies due process."

Pardee presented her concern to city council back in June. The council decided to form a task force to look into the matter - a task force Pardee was originally a key member of. However, after several weeks, she resigned.

"I got the impression that the task force wasn't working towards the task defined for it by the city council," she said. "And so I had concerns that it was actually working towards specific goals that the council requested."

For whatever reasons, Pardee says she doesn't feel the task force wants to see BSL ended in the city's ordinance. So she's started her own campaign to educate the public on the issue.

"People are surprised that this has been on the books for 30 years in Des Moines, and Des Moines is the only city in the Metro - now - that has breed discriminatory language in it's law," she said.

She's referring to the City of Altoona's recent decision to change its dog ordinance to include breed neutral language, leaving the City of Des Moines as the only city in the Metro still implementing breed specific language. As the city task force plans to offer its suggestions for changes in the ordinance to the council sometime in November, Pardee says her main goal is to continue raising support.

"Almost a month ago, the Facebook page maybe had 20 likes or something like that. And then now, we're almost up to 200," she said. "The petition, there's over 490 signatures."

Pardee plans to take the petition to the council next month, along with data she's gathering from a professional poll launching city-wide next week. It will ask residents of Des Moines their thoughts on breed-neutral language.

"My goal, is that there needs to be a very fair and impartial effort to try and get citizen input," she said. "And if it turns out that more citizens are opposed to this, then that's how it turns out...but so far, what we've seen, there's far more support to repeal BSL than there is to oppose it."

You can visit Pardee's campaign website here.




  • Steve

    if you want to own vicious breeds Chritine, that’s your business. All society is asking for is that you be insured so that when your pooch, known for it’s vicious tendencies, has funds to compensate the victim instead of having you or others shrug and say ‘blood from a turnip – sorry’

    • Kate

      Breeds don’t have vicious tendencies, owners have tendencies to make dogs vicious or not. The reason so many pit type dogs are vicious is because they are the breed du jour for many low life wannabes. It’s been the Rottweiler, the Doberman, and german Shepard in the past. There are many responsible pit owners that have wonderful animals that are sociable and far from vicious. My son was bitten by a Jack Russell, my co-worker a rat terrier, my friend by a lhasa apso, my own dog, has been repeatedly snarled, and snapped at by the neighbors little mutt mixes , those are vicious dogs. IN fairness perhaps owners should be given an opportunity to have a temperament test done on their animals instead of having it deemed vicious because of it’s DNA.

      • Steve

        ” IN fairness perhaps owners should be given an opportunity to have a temperament test done on their animals instead of having it deemed vicious because of it’s DNA.”

        that’s a great idea, Kate, why dont YOU do it. You can create such a service yourself. Then you can test a dog on a good day, and certify him, have him bite on a bad day, then you can be sued for everything you have on count of your certification. sure works for me, Kate

    • Christine Pardee

      I dont own a breed that is legally defined by our municipal code as “vicious”. I own miniature Schnauzers. If this law is repealed, it does not impact me as a dog owner. The law just does not do what it was put in place to do ~ it does not reduce dog bites and attacks and it unfairly penalizes dog owners who happen to have a dog that is perceived, and legally defined in the DSM muni code as “vicious”. Insurance is a good thing for all dog owners to have. Regardless of breed.

    • dsm4breedneutral

      Steve, by the way…. my miniature schnauzers were attacked by a dog not legally determined as “vicious” in our muni code. The owner of that dog took zero responsibility to compensate me for the emergency vet bills and damage her dog did to mine. Her dog was a Corgi. She hired a criminal defense attorney to try and get her out of being responsible for the damage her dogs caused to mine. What a coward. ALL dogs and dog owners need to be held to the same standards for following leash laws and our penalty and fines for “dogs at large” and “damage causing injury” need to be significantly increased in the City of Des Moines. Had Tessa been a responsible dog owner, my effort to get a change to the muni code would have never happened. Ironic isn’t it?! And I don’t even own a pit bull or bull mix…. again, its just a really bad law.

  • Cameron Stotz

    All dogs living in the city should be licensed, vaccinated, and insured; no matter the breed. We own a dog labeled as “vicious” and he is anything but vicious. We know firsthand how unfair and discriminatory BSL is. It’s something that we had to think about when picking a city to move to in the Des Moines area. We weren’t about to fall subject to having our dog removed from our home. The laws, in some of these cities, are stuck in the 1800’s and need to be reformed. Responsible dog owners and their dogs should not have a blanket penalty for the actions of the few. We will be volunteering to help foster this cause.

    • Olita

      Agreed Cameron! Whether one believes that pit bulls are great dogs or vicious dogs, why would’t you support public safety legislation that covers ALL dogs? I just don’t understand.

  • Jonesey

    An what is the ARL doing to change the BSL in their city or to help this woman? They sit on millions of dollars. Do the Colvins always have to come first. Try putting the animals first for a change by handing over some of that dough to get your city moving forward. You pride yourself on being Pit Bull experts and saving them. Well, get going.
    Good for you Christine!

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