Pit bull ban under review in Ottumwa

Language in the Ottumwa city code surrounding the definition of a dangerous animal is under review.
Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 6:03 AM CDT
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OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - City council members are considering lifting a 20-year ban on pit bulls in Ottumwa.

The ban was instituted in 2002 after a toddler was attacked by her family’s pit bull, but the city has had legislation prohibiting pit bulls from within the city limits for more than 40 years. The city code labels the breed as a dangerous animal, along with other species including lions, tigers and bears.

A poll is available on the city’s website and Facebook for community members to vote on whether they support the ban or not, and whether animals classified as dangerous should be microchipped. City officials are also working on a new draft of a section of Ottumwa’s code of ordinances.

The goal is to clarify language surrounding the definition of a dangerous, vicious or potentially dangerous animal. City Manager Phil Rath says this will help make the law easier to enforce and understand.

Rath says he has not seen sufficient evidence that the ban should be lifted. He is not allowed to vote on the matter.

“Nothing is going to stop an incident from happening, but when you open yourself up to that much more potential for liability, knowing you had a part in it, I would have a hard time sleeping at night,” Rath said.

Kathleen Caldwell, a member of a coalition to have the ban lifted, says breed bans don’t make communities safer, but rather they violate citizens’ rights. She had pit bulls prior to living in Ottumwa, and says she would adopt the breed again if the ban is lifted. Caldwell was also injured by a German Shepherd in the past.

“I’ve lived through a dog attack,” Caldwell said. “I know that it is that animal, it’s not the entire breed, and if you don’t train your dog properly, if you don’t care for your dog properly, your dog can do dangerous things. It doesn’t matter what the breed is.”

City council members will hear the new draft at public meeting on Tuesday, May 3rd. From there, they will either strike the revisions down or move forward with another hearing before making a final decision.

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