A cluster of huskies, pit bulls and German shepherds were out at Masterson Station Park Friday night, but their owners’ motives for the park visit were more serious than a walk or a game of fetch.
Dozens of people, several with dogs in tow, gathered at the park to discuss and protest a ban on 11 dog breeds that was detailed in a letter from the developer of McConnell’s Trace neighborhood earlier this month.
The letter sparked outrage from some in the neighborhood and wider Lexington community, but developer Dennis Anderson told the Herald-Leader earlier this week that the ban has been in place since 2006. Neighborhood residents say they aren’t so sure.
Several at the meeting said their deed restrictions after 2006 mentioned a limit on pets, three per household, but made no mention of banned breeds. Josh Jordan, who was one of the organizers for Friday night’s meeting, said his 2016 deed did not include the list of breeds. He owns a pit bull.
“I checked the deed before I moved in and it wasn’t in there,” Jordan said. “I’m really upset because I would’ve moved somewhere else.”
A letter sent out to the neighborhood earlier this week by Anderson Communities addressed recent backlash of the ban.
“Anderson Communities regrets the level and tone of discussion resulting from incomplete communication – both on our part as well as coverage by traditional and social media – of the Second Master Amendment to the Deed of Restrictions of McConnell’s Trace,” the letter said. “We accept responsibility for the way this information was disseminated and will alter our protocols to avoid future misunderstandings.”
Residents who already have one of the banned breeds would be able to keep their dogs, according to the letter.
The letter also said Anderson Communities was considering taking the number of banned breeds down to three: pit bulls, Rottweilers and German shepherds. When the letter was read aloud to the crowd at Masterson Station Park Friday night, it was met by several shaking heads from people who at that moment held the leashes of dogs of those three breeds.
As it stands, the banned dogs include:
- German shepherds
- Doberman pinschers
- pit bulls (including American Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and “any dogs containing characteristics of these breeds”)
- Alaskan malamutes
- Great Danes
- St. Bernards
In preparation for the meeting Friday, five people placed fliers at every house in the neighborhood to raise awareness, including fellow organizer Lloyd Ellis.
Ellis said he and his wife received the letter last week from Anderson Communities and saw that it was also signed by the board of directors. Ellis is a member of the board and said he had no prior knowledge of the letter and no vote or voice in the decision. He decided to step down from the board, and two other members followed.
Ellis said Friday night’s meeting was about education and sharing information, but it was also about getting a petition started.
“That way we have documentation that can go to the board of directors and say, ‘Hey, there’s this many members of the neighborhood that are willing to drop this ban. What do we need to do to make this happen?’” Ellis said. “We just want to give people the power to take their homes into their own rights, because as of right now we’re being treated like renters.”
Josh McCurn, president of the neighborhood association, was at the meeting Friday night to hear residents’ concerns.
“We are looking for a way, tonight in particular, to hear our neighbors, to hear the voice of our neighborhood, and to see ways that we can bring all these voices back to the table,” McCurn said.
Kyle Norton lives in McConnell’s Trace with his dogs, including a large German shepherd/Great Pyrenees mix named Dexter who also attended Friday night’s meeting. In his three years of owning a home in McConnell’s Trace, he said he’s never seen a problem with dogs.
“We are dog lovers, and showing up is just our way of saying that we don’t feel like there’s such a thing as a bully breed,” Norton said. “Dogs are a product of their owners, and if they’re treated with love and respect they will be good dogs. I think we’re attacking the wrong side of the issue.”
He also talked about the joy and love pet owners experience. Putting a limit on that experience, he feels, could affect who decides to live in McConnell’s Trace.
“I think it’s going to drive people out of the community. I know for a fact that it’s going to drive us out of the community if it doesn’t get changed,” Norton said.
Nicholas Romeo, who also lives in McConnell’s Trace, has three dogs. None of them were on the list of banned breeds, but he was at the meeting Friday night in solidarity with those directly affected.
“As dog lovers and as homeowners we have the right to defend our property,” Romeo said. “I feel that Dennis Anderson in particular with his restrictions on the deed is starting to invade our personal space inside of our homes and telling what we can and can’t have in our home, and I find that completely unacceptable.”
Romeo said the developer of a neighborhood should not have the power to ban certain breeds of dogs.
“Once you start restricting the way we live in our homes, I think it’s also a slippery slope, because what’s the next thing he’s going to restrict?” Romeo said. “On a broader scope it’s about more of personal freedoms and rights that are being infringed upon.”
The meeting Friday night did not only draw McConnell’s Trace homeowners. Amy Bailey, who lives in Masterson Station, attended the meetingwith her Doberman.
“I know people who live in McConnell’s Trace and I own a Doberman, which is one of the breeds that would be affected by this ban,” Bailey said. “So I just wanted to come out and show my support in saying that just based on their breed, you can’t know anything about a dog. There’s good dogs and bad dogs of all breeds.”
Bailey said people shouldn’t assume dogs like Dobermans, German shepherds and pit bulls are aggressive based on their breed. During her interview with the Herald-Leader, her large Doberman named Cole sat calmly at her feet.
“I think people look at him and think he looks mean and just assume that he’s going to be a bad dog,” Bailey said. “But in reality he’s the best.”