With a large portion of dog to human attack calls involving pit bulls, the city is looking to control the population of the breed with a new ordinance.
A proposed city ordinance would require pit bulls of five months and older to be spayed or neutered, with the exception of documented show dogs or service dogs.
Ald. John Strasser, District 14, said controlling pit bull reproduction is a better policy than licensing to breed because restricting licenses is only effective when it is possible to intervene when someone attempts to breed the dog.
“We’re trying to curb the population without making any reference or statement or anything to promote the breed,” Strasser said. “It starts with the shelter system. Over half of the dogs euthanized are pit bulls, and at any given time pit bulls flood the system, take longer to adopt out and require more time and resources.”
Patrick Comfert of Dane County Animal Services said in addition to euthanization, pit bulls are causing other problems around the city, making up 38 percent of dog-on-dog attacks and 12 percent of dogs attacking humans in just the last year.
Comfert said 34 percent of aggressive animal calls also involved pit bulls. He said these are situations that cause people to fear for their safety in general.
He also said there is “no prejudice” in the introduction of the restrictions.
“The ordinance is not saying don’t own a pit bull,” Comfert said.
Instead, Comfert said it is an opportunity to help avoid further negligence of the dogs in poor care.
Ald. Anita Weier, District 18, also backs the ordinance, calling it “an attempt to get control over breeders.”
The ordinance was brought to City Council on Tuesday, but Strasser said it will have to be reviewed by the Dane County Board of Health and the Public Safety Review Commission before being brought up for a vote.
Once these committees assess the ordinance it will be passed back to City Council with recommendations, at which point the council will allow public input and debate, he said.
Enforcement of the restrictions would be complaint-based, Strasser said. If a disturbance is reported, proof of alterations would be required as well as proof of registration, he said. If either documentation is missing, the person would be given a citation and a period of time to have the dog spayed or neutered, he said.
Strasser said if the procedure is not done, fines range from $500 for the first offense up to $1,500 for the third and all offenses following. He added the dollar amount is calculated to exceed the cost of the operation as an incentive for owners to comply.
Strasser said he would expects the ordinance to stay in place for many years.
“I’m not looking to put a sunset on it,” he said. “I cannot see in the near future a time when we would want to remove it.”
City Council will likely discuss the ordinance during its March 18 meeting.