By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
Pit bulls will once again be allowed in Seward County, but there are some regulations to keeping the breed. Other types of dogs will also be regulated under another law put into effect this week.
Tuesday, county commissioners narrowly passed two resolutions, one for the regulation of pit bulls and the other for vicious dogs, after being given five choices by county counsel Dan Diepenbrock, who drew up the potential ordinances for the board.
At the meeting, Diepenbrock said the resolutions had been before the commission prior to Tuesday. The board hosted a workshop in May, and based on comments made there and conversations with commissioners, Diepenbrock revised the original resolutions, one of which called for a total ban on pit bulls.
“Option C is a return to the total ban in the event that is what the majority of the board elects to do,” he said. “I’ve provided you previously with some statistics regarding pit bull attacks and how they compare to other breeds. The data that I was reviewing and discussing was statistics from the Centers for Disease Control.”
Diepenbrock estimated the time frame of those numbers was from 1979 to 1998.
“I didn’t spend the time to determine why this happened, but for some reason, the CDC stopped compiling those statistics,” he said. “I suspect it may be due to pressure from the pit bull lobby, but I don’t know that for a fact.”
Diepenbrock said though pit bulls make up a small percentage of all breeds, they do commit a large percentage of attacks.
Earlier this year, commissioners voted 3-2 to repeal the total ban which had been in place. Chairman Jim Rice was one of the members who voted to keep the ban in effect. Tuesday’s vote also came out 3-2 in favor of adopting resolutions to allow pit bulls but regulate them and to address vicious dogs. Rice along with commissioner Randy Malin likewise voted against that option, and he explained his decision.
“It’s going to take, in my opinion, another entity simply to keep the records of these from date of birth to vaccination to spaying and neutering to rabies to ownership,” Rice said. “I think the work itself would be overwhelming. I think it would take one employee full-time just to keep track of that.”
Rice instead was opting for the total ban package that had been effect since the early 1990s.
“As I look back to when that initial resolution was made, there was no doubt of the previous commissioners’ intent to ban pit bulls from Seward County,” he said. “I’ve given this a great deal of thought, and looking at the statistics and the intent of the previous commissioners, I’m in favor of going back to the total ban.”
Commissioner Doug LaFreniere disagreed, saying the aim of the ban was pointed in the wrong direction.
“I don’t think you regulate a breed, you regulate an action,” he said. “I just think an unenforceable ordinance allows people to pick and choose who you’re going to enforce it on and who you’re not going to enforce it on.”
LaFreniere said having a total ban puts dog owners back into hiding pit bulls, which adds up to neglect for the canines.
“They won’t get veterinary care,” he said. “I don’t think you need to hire anybody. Veterinarians already carry most of this registration. I like the vicious dog, and I like A. People have a right to own their family pets.”
Commissioner Ada Linenbroker, who along with Rice voted against repealing the total ban on pit bulls, did vote Tuesday in favor of the two ordinances adopted. She said she feels strongly about the matter.
“I’ve done a lot of research,” she said. “At the very beginning at that meeting, I voted to stay with the old resolution. I still kind of feel that way, but if we can regulate how these people are doing this.”
Linenbroker said the idea of the new pit bull law is to those who want to have the animals as pets do so.
“If they want to have pets, if they’re willing to go by these rules and regulations, we’re going to let them do it, but the problem that I’m seeing is ever since we changed the resolution that we had, there are pit bulls all over town,” she said.
The City of Liberal does currently have a ban in place on pit bulls, and Linenbroker said since the county ban was lifted, more of the dogs are being seen not only in the county, but in town as well.
“I think we’ve either got to totally ban them, or we’re going to have to have the regulations on them,” she said. “It’s not just us that it’s affecting. It’s also the people in the city.”
Linenbroker said she was in favor of the new resolutions with one condition.
“If people are going to have them and they want to keep them, they’re going to have to go by the rules,” she said.
Commissioner C.J. Wettstein, who along with LaFreniere and Linenbroker, voted to put the new laws into effect, said he felt pit bulls were being brought into town prior to the repeal of the total ban.
“I think we’ve had the pit bulls in here anyway,” Wettstein said. “We’ve had the problems with them. We’ve had the pit bulls regardless. I had decided that A and B is what we should go with. I don’t think the total ban was working either. They just kept them hid.”
A clause in the new pit bull ordinance requires owners of more than two dogs to register with the state as a kennel, as they are considered breeders. Wettstein said under the original ban, breeding was still taking place, and the new law addresses this issue.
“Nothing was getting done,” he said. “At least if we have some breeders, they are going to be required to be registered with the state. They will be under the regulations of the state also.”
Wettstein said he feels the new ordinances give the county more control with people now not hiding pit bulls.
“I think this will give the sheriff’s officers the option to destroy the dog,” he said.
Wettstein said having a clause for registered licensed kennels from the state puts the county in a better situation than that of the total ban.
“If they have to go through the state licensing and we know that they’re breeders, I think we have more control over them,” he said. “If we come up on some that has more than two dogs and they’re not breeder licensed, at that time, they can be destroyed.”
Just prior to the vote, sheriff Bill McBryde said while he understood all of the points of view presented, the new rules put the commission in a delicate situation.
“If that’s one of your kids or your grandkids that gets an arm chewed off, you’re not going to be happy with the decision you make, but I also understand the other side of it,” he said. “We do have dogs out there, whether they be pit bulls, rottweilers, whatever breed they may be, that they are part of your family.”
McBryde said the important thing to remember is to have rules in place that work effectively for everyone.
“I’m not concerned with the dogs,” he said. “I’m not concerned with the kennel owners. I’m concerned with what’s going to work for us, what’s going to work for our constituents, everybody as a whole, not just the breeders.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: A complete list of regulations governing ownership of pit bulls or viscious dogs can be obtained at the Seward County Clerk’s office after the resolution has been officially published for the public.