YAKIMA, Wash. – Bad news for pit bull lovers.
Despite impassioned testimony from community members, Yakima’s 29-year-old ban on the dog breed will remain in place after the City Council voted 4-3 against moving the issue to committee for further discussion.
Opponents of lifting the ban stood their ground on safety concerns, saying they don’t want to be responsible for potential vicious dog attacks. Bill Lover, Maureen Adkison, Holly Cousens and Dulce Gutierrez voted against bringing the issue to committee.
Councilmember Carmen Mendez, who brought the topic to council and made the motion to move it to the Public Safety Committee, says she still plans to talk about the ban.
Since Mendez serves on that committee, she said, she realized she can ask for items to be put on the agenda. Those have to be approved by the committee chairwoman – Kathy Coffey, who also supports re-examining the ban.
“I feel very disappointed that the other councilmembers are not giving their constituents opportunity to even look at this 30-year-old ordinance,” Mendez said. She wanted to talk about alternatives for pet owners: “What other prerequisites do they need to have in order to be able to have a pit bull?”
Indeed, the rallying cry of pit bull supporters Tuesday was “Punish the deed, not the breed” by going after abusive owners.
Yakima resident Candie Turner called for pet owners to be more responsible and for parents to better supervise their children if there were concerns about dogs.
“We have made this mess. People have made this mess, by training these dogs to fight other dogs,” she said. “We need to clean it up.”
Nayeli Sanchez, age 12, got emotional as she talked about her pit bull.
In previous decades, she said, people have blamed Dobermans, German shepherds and Rottweilers, and now it’s pit bulls.
“When in reality, it’s the humans who are to blame,” the Union Gap girl said. “When will we take responsibility for the things we have done to them that lead to this violence and abuse?”
It’s like judging a child by their skin color, she added.
Many also pointed out that the basic identification of pit bulls is flawed, because there is no “pit bull” breed, and many characteristics of Staffordshire bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers look similar to those of boxers and mastiffs.
In the city of Yakima, code administration manager Joe Caruso said, Animal Control has confiscated 334 pit bulls from families and brought them to the Humane Society. But only five or six owners have asked for DNA tests to ensure that their dog is correctly identified.
Coffey suggested the city might take on the cost of that DNA test, which Caruso said runs $30 to $40.
A few people spoke in favor of the ban, including a man whose friend was just mauled by a pit bull near Portland and may never run again.
“I don’t want to take an opportunity … in changing the law so now there’s more opportunity for things to happen that we don’t want to happen,” Larry Adams said.
He compared it to putting more bullets into a gun, but not knowing how many: “Some may be blanks; some may go off.”
A broader concern raised by council members, especially Dulce Gutierrez, is the number of stray dogs on the street in her district and elsewhere.
She supports the ban because if those stray dogs include pit bulls, they will pose an even bigger threat to children and vulnerable people, she said.