By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
After passing a resolution in February outlawing pit bulls in the county, the Seward County Commission voted, at its March 7 meeting, to revisit the ordinance at its meeting this Monday.
That vote came after a long discussion with county officials and Gerald Valentine, who breeds the dogs at his residence in the county.
Saturday at Blue Bonnet Park, Valentine is inviting people to sign a petition against implementing the breed specific law in Seward County.
Valentine said he has given the county an overview and a proposal, and he has gotten some response from flyers promoting the signature signing.
Valentine believes breed specific laws do not work, and he feels what the county needs to do instead is have a vicious dog law. He referred to one such ordinance written by Elkhart attorney Bill Graybill, which is now in effect in that community.
“It works in Elkhart,” Valentine said. “It works in Topeka. It’s pretty easy to define a vicious dog. It doesn’t have to be a pit bull. I’ve seen vicious cocker spaniels. I’ve seen vicious basset hounds.”
Valentine said there is one clause he would like to see added to the Elkhart law should Seward County decide to adopt such a resolution.
“It costs $48 for Dr. Brett Jones to implant a chip into a dog,” he said. “If a dog’s running loose and the dog’s picked up, they come to the owner and say, ‘You can either have the dog implanted at your cost, which is around $50, or you can have the dog euthanized.’ It’s technology. We’ve fallen behind in technology. With these chips $48 implanted, they can tell where the dog is any time. They can pick the dog up. That’s what Topeka did.”
Jones, a Liberal veterinarian, wrote a letter supporting the end to the breed specific ban on pit bulls in the county. In it, he said enacting and enforcing rules against aggressive and vicious dogs is a more fair and reasonable approach to the problem.
“We find that in our daily experience handling many different breeds of dogs, that pit bulls are no more likely to be aggressive than any other breed we see,” he said. “We know and see pit bulls who are aggressive, but we would rather see these dealt with as vicious dogs.”
Jones said the ban on pit bulls decreases the willingness of owners to bring their dogs in for medical attention and routine preventative care.
“This truly causes neglect and suffering to the breed, only because they are pit bulls,” he said.
Valentine said after enacting breed specific legislation in 1991, the City of Topeka overruled that law last year and went with a vicious dog law.
“So did Edwardsville, Kansas. So did Wellington, Kansas,” he said.
Valentine agreed with Jones, saying owners need to be more responsible for their animals.
“These people keep these dogs in sheds and in basements and are afraid to take them out in the open,” he said. “They’re pets. They don’t want to get rid of them. Therefore, they don’t get the proper care they should.”
The Elkhart law calls for proper restraint of a dog.
“The owner of a vicious dog shall not suffer or permit the dog to go beyond the premises of the owner unless the dog is securely muzzled and restrained by a chain or leash and under the physical restraint of a person,” the ordinance reads.
Valentine said this should be part of Seward County’s resolution as well.
“If the mean dog stays or is contained on its premises, that’s one thing, but to have it turned loose and wreak havoc in the neighborhood, that’s just wrong,” he said. “Nobody likes a vicious dog. Nobody wants to get bit.”
Valentine said the chip implant is a good technology weapon to use. He said no matter what happens between now and Monday’s commission meeting, he simply wants a fair law.
“Breed specific legislation hasn’t worked,” he said. “It has been overturned in lots and lots of states. I don’t know why they think a vicious dog law wouldn’t work. It’s worked in Topeka. It’s worked in Wellington. It’s worked in Edwardsville.”
Valentine again referred to the Elkhart law, saying it is simple, something he would like to see passed in Seward County.
“It’s not overly confusing, and it’s written in simple terms you can understand,” he said.
Valentine said he can appreciate the county’s conundrum.
“I understand they have a problem,” he said. “I know they have a problem. I don’t want to stand in the way of law enforcement doing their job.”