Bill sponsor hopes to end city pit-bull bans


A bill would potentially bring an end to a 17-year-old ban on pit bulls in several cities and towns by barring the banning of selective dog breeds.

Rep. King, D-Salt Lake City is sponsoring HB97, a bill that would put an end to such ordinances. With more than 200 cities and towns in Utah, only 10 have these specific breed bans.

Rep. King speaks to his bill, HB97, on the band on pit bulls.
Rep. King speaks to his bill, HB97, on the band on pit bulls.

King said that he was willing to back this bill and infringe upon local control, something he has been hesitant to do in the past.

“The primary thing that troubles me, is that it’s basically a city or town telling us, as citizens, what kind of dog we can own,” King said, “There aren’t such large difference between breeds that justifies handling dogs on a breed by breed basis.”

However a recent pit bull attack in early February on 6-year-old Wyatt Abraham, has left people divided on the issue.

“As long as we are a dog owning society … we are going to have significant dog attacks by all breeds,” King said.

He believed that facts showed the attack was because of a bad dog owner, not necessarily the dog, and certainly not the entire breed as a whole.

The representative also stated that the ban should be removed because often times the cities and towns who have these ordinances can’t and don’t enforce them.

Chip Dawson, a policy analyst and media relations correspondent from South Jordan, disagreed with King about the bill.

“The cost of a DNA test [to determine the breed] is the burden of a resident … and costs approximately $50,” said Dawson. “We don’t regulate pit bulls because of their potential to bite, we regulate pit bulls because of their potential to inflict 62 percent more fatalities according to the studies [from the] Centers of Disease Control. The next closest group, Rottweiler’s, is one sixth the number of fatal incidences.”

Rep. Hall, R-West Valley, was concerned that this bill could lead to the Legislature becoming a way to appeal existing laws rather then make them.

“I’m worried about the slippery slope of any time the city passes an ordinance that the members of a city don’t like, they are going to run to the state legislature … the fight here seems to be between the individual and the city,” Hall said.

Among the many people testifying about the bill was Arlyn Bradshaw, from the Salt Lake County Council. “Focus on the behavior, not the breed,” he said.

“Pets are a very important part of a family dynamic so when you tell someone they have to remove a member of their family, that’s just not OK,” said King.

Iryon Barrett, a Salt Lake City resident and third time pit bull owner himself, said, “I wouldn’t own any other dog … [if there’s ever a problem] it’s not the dogs fault it’s the owners fault.”

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