Anna Marie Bunch and her family love their female pit bull, Blue so much so that the family acquired a second pit, a male called Hoss.
While the children tumbled and climbed around Blue, Bunch, the author of 2015’s children book, “I Love My Two Mommies,” had a bad feeling about Hoss.
“I felt like he was strange, I felt that he was unsafe,” Bunch said. “I said, ‘Hey, he’s acting funny with our oldest daughter.’”
The dog later bit a member of Bunch’s extended family and was taken to the Humane Society.
Bunch sees the debate about dog breed restrictions for people living in the McConnell’s Trace neighborhood in Lexington from both side: “It does go both ways. ... My girl pit bull would never ever hurt anyone. But it can be any breed. You just never know.”
Homeowners in McConnell’s Trace were sent letters by the neighborhood developer recently detailing a change in an existing dog restriction, which previously referred only to unspecified “aggressive breeds,” said Josh McCurn, president of the area’s neighborhood association. German shepherds, St. Bernards and chows are among the list of 11 dog breeds restricted from the neighborhood.
If you want to start a debate, talk about what constitutes a “bully breed” worthy of being banned from neighborhoods such as McConnell’s Trace — or cities such as Montreal and Denver, which have both banned pit bulls.
Candidate Valerie Plante promised during her campaign for mayor of the Canadian city that she would repeal breed-specific restrictions on dog ownership. In December, animal control bylaws that target specific dog breeds or physical characteristics, rather than demonstrated behavior, were lifted.
Denver and its nearby suburban towns have debated Denver’s pit bull ban since 1992, when it went into effect.
“Pit bull bans are still justified,” the Denver Post headlined a January 29 editorial. “It’s not that pit bulls can’t be gentle and loving dogs,” the editorial said. “The issue is that if a pit bull turns out to be temperamental, the outcome is so often worse for the victim.”
A 2000 study by the Centers for Disease Control said that between 1979 and 1998, at least 25 breeds of dogs were involved in 238 dog bite-related fatalities during the past 20 years. Pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers were involved in more than half of these deaths.
Residents in Miami-Dade County Florida voted to keep their pit bull ban in 2012. The Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation and another group called Blues for Vets filed a lawsuit in October, 2017 to lift the area’s nearly 30-year-old ban.
Lexington city spokewoman Susan Straub said that the city law department has no memory of a breed-specific ordinance ever being introduced in Lexington, nor does she.
Lexington’s animal control ordinance defines a dog as vicious if it is owned for the purposes of fighting, or the dog has bitten a human or animal without cause, or if it has been declared by a court as a vicious dog. A dog declared vicious must be kept on the owner’s property either indoors or in a yard with a locked fence. If it leaves the owners property, it must be restrained by a leash and a muzzle.
The Urban County Council voted 10 months ago to strengthen the vicious dog ordinance, allowing animal control officers to hold a dog for 10 days after it attacks a human or another domestic animal. Other changes include requiring that vicious dogs be spayed or neutered and the creation of a photo registry of all vicious dogs.
In Union County, animal control officer Kathy Baird enforces the county’s law that dogs including pit bulls and wolf hybrids pay an annual registration fee. For Baird, it’s an opportunity to keep track of where the animals are in the county and to make sure that all efforts have been made to get the animals spayed or neutered: “They have a tendency to react more often due to the fact that the hormones are there.”
Obviously, the restrictions are not foolproof. If an unregistered dog is picked up, the owners claiming them then have to register the dog. Those who haven’t spayed or neutered their dogs may be offered a discounted spay-neuter if they have a low income.
“We’re not trying to police everybody,” Baird said. “There’s too many wonderful dogs out there.”