Dodge City resident Trisha Martinez made a presentation before the City Commission last week asking for a revision or replacement of the city's pit bull ban.
The ban Martinez mentioned is formally known as City Ordinance No. 3382 and prohibits the ownership and possession of pit bull dogs within city limits, with certain exceptions. But in Martinez's opinion, the ordinance, as it is currently written, only compounds problems for families and animal control officers.
Martinez is a Dodge City native and is the owner of a 9-month-old mixed breed dog named Chica that three weeks ago was deemed to have "pit bull stature." Because of the dog's appearance, Martinez was given the choice to either surrender Chica to animal control and possible euthanization or permanently remove her from the city limits. She chose to take her dog to stay with a friend outside of Dodge City.
"Once I removed the dog from the city, she wouldn't be allowed back, even though she was never checked by a vet," Martinez said.
Martinez offered to have a veterinarian verify Chica's characteristics and determine if she did indeed have pit bull ancestry, but she was told she can't even bring the dog into town to be checked. To Martinez, that part of the ordinance just leads to dogs that are not vaccinated, not socialized and have to live in hiding.
And that only holds true for people who know about the ordinance which was established in 2005 to combat dog fighting and increase resident safety.
"There are so many pit bulls in this town already and there is such ignorance of the law," she said.
In fact, Martinez herself wasn't aware the law existed until her dog was taken two weeks ago. Martinez said the animal control officer who seized Chica was very apologetic and said she was "just doing her job" but she didn't agree with her pet being assessed solely on it's appearance.
"A dog could be a mix between a lab and a great dane and have a pit bull like stature but not be a pit at all," she said.
In addition to Chica, Martinez has two other dogs and a cat. She and her husband also have three children.
"Our so-called pit never showed aggressiveness to any of us, including our other pets," she said. And through some research Martinez found other pit bulls in Dodge City with similar stories. In a written statement, Tina Preston, another Dodge resident and former pit bull owner, defended the breed.
"While raising our pit, we also had a lab and a miniature pincher and they all were very well behaved dogs. Never once did we have a neighbor complain or a child bitten by one of our dogs," Preston wrote. "...If you raise a pit in a loving home, it's going to be a loving dog."
Page 2 of 3 - Preston added that in her opinion, it's wrong for the city to decide what breeds of dogs are allowed in the city and what aren't. Another source Martinez referenced, a local veterinary aide, agreed in a letter to the commission.
"I am writing this letter because I feel like the pit bull is being singled out and should not be. They are very smart, loving dogs and can be a joy to any household when raised correctly," she wrote. "This holds true to any breed of dog so maybe you ought to start looking at other breeds as far as being dangerous to society."
But other people in town disagree. A reader poll on the Globe's website sought more opinions on the ordinance and possible future action. At press time, 59 percent of polled readers said they think the pit bull ban should remain in place; 41 percent voted for a repeal. The poll will remain open for voting at dodgeglobe.com until Monday, Feb. 4.
In Martinez's opinion, the breed-specific legislation is unwarranted.
"In today's society, media really seems to have such a strong hand regarding public opinions, and as with any breed, for every one bad story you hear — if you hunted— you would find 100 good stories," she said. "It seems that hysteria and fear will spread much faster than education."
Martinez urged the commission to contact area vets and the local animal control officers for more information.
"Hearing the sides of people who actually deal with these animals every day will be your best resource," she said at the meeting. "I would like to believe you are the wise lawmakers we elected and you will take the time to educate yourselves on the issue and how it affects our community.
She also brought some statistics to back her request.
Martinez reported that according to data from Animal Control Supervisor Laura Stein, the number of pit bulls seized by the city has steadily increased in the past four years. Seventeen dogs with pit bull characteristics were recorded in 2008, 27 in 2009, and 47 in 2010. The highest number of reported pit bulls was in 2012 when a total of 60 were taken by animal control.
Martinez also said that according to animal control, next to none of the dogs deemed to have pit bull characteristics showed aggressive nature.
Other data Martinez presented included a record of reported domestic animal bites in Dodge City since 2008. The data showed the pit bull breed having been the culprit in only two, 4 percent, of the 43 reported bites in 2012; Chihuahuas accounted for seven bites, shepard breeds accounted for four, and poodles were listed four times. In 2008, 2010, and 2011, no pit bull bites were reported. Dodge City Police Chief Craig Mellecker said he attributes the decrease in pit bull related incidents to good, responsible pet owners.
Page 3 of 3 - Mellecker said the police department is doing research with animal control and plans to meet with the city staff to see if there is justification to modify the ordinance. He said he is not sure what the outcome of the meetings will be.
Jane Longmeyer, public information officer for Dodge City, said Monday that Martinez's request is still in the discussion phase with the city commission but officials are looking into it.
Martinez plans to attend the next city commission meeting to see if any action will be taken. Until then, she said she plans to wait it out and see if she will ever be able to bring Chica home.