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Yakima city council upholds ban on pit bulls despite widespread opposition

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On Thursday, Dec. 5, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported that a ban on pit bull dogs first established in 1987 was upheld by the city council.

The city council met on Tuesday, Dec. 3, where the majority of the testimony opposed the ban. Opponents stated that the law should punish pet owners and not dogs. Despite this opposition, city code enforcement stated that the ban promotes public safety by reducing dangerous dogs in the city.

While the Yakima City Council voted 6 to 1 to uphold the current pit bull ban, they did leave the door open for future legislation.

Opponents of the breed-specific legislation stated that rules should be established that punish bad owners and not breeds or types of dogs. Currently, the ordinance has the support of the city code enforcement manager and the Yakima Police Patrolmen's association.

The testimony opposing the ban received applause and other supportive outbursts.

Longtime pit bull owner Marilyn Brown, whose two pit bulls have since died, noted that the ordinance forced her to keep her dogs in hiding after the annexation of her property into the city in 2007. Her pit bulls, Cookie and Pebbles, had been family - especially to Brown's autistic daughter.

“I had these dogs many years,” Brown said. “They were innocent of any wrongdoing ever.”

Council members voted to uphold the ban. The lone dissenting vote against the breed-specific legislation came from councilwoman Kathy Coffey. Following a debate, the council subsequently voted 5 to 2 to direct city staff to provide more information on how alternative pit bull ordinances have been successful in other cities.

Code enforcement pulled much of the national statistics provided to the council from a website called Dogsbite.org. Opponents of the breed-specific legislation questioned the site's credibility.

“Dogsbite.org is a heavily biased site that uses anecdotal reports,” stated resident James Boyer.

According to the American Humane Association (AHA), breed-specific legislation is ineffective: there is little evidence to support it as an effective way to reduce dog attacks and dog bites. The AHA notes that unfavorable situations are typically what create dangerous dogs.

The AHA provides multiple alternatives to breed bans, including education, spay/neuter, enforcement, and better bite reporting.

Pit bulls score exceptionally well on temperament tests. According to the American Temperament Test Society (2010-2011), pit bulls passed the ATTS temperament test with 86.4%.

The Labrador Retriever scored 92.4%, the Golden Retriever scored 84.9%, Yorkshire Terriers scored 82.5%, Cocker Spaniels scored 81.9%, Beagles scored 80.6%, Shih Tzus scored 78%, Bichon Frise scored 76.7%, Chihuahuas scored 71.1%, and Lhasa Apsos scored 70.4%.

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