No muzzles for pit bull pups?
By Emily Nohr
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
Rules for muzzling young pit bulls would be relaxed and animal impound fees would be lowered under proposals to be taken up Tuesday by the Omaha City Council.
The changes — requested by the Nebraska Humane Society — would alter rules passed by the City Council in 2008.
The restrictions, proposed by then-Mayor Mike Fahey, were in response to a series of pit bull attacks that year.
Under the rules, all pit bulls were required to be muzzled, leashed and harnessed while in public unless the dog had passed an annual behavior test administered by the Humane Society.
Under one of the changes to be considered by the council, pit bulls ages six months or younger could be harness- and muzzle-free in public.
Pam Wiese, spokesperson for the Nebraska Humane Society, said pit bull puppies are prevented from socializing normally when constricted by a harness or muzzle.
During the past 10 years, only three level-three bites — the most common type of bite — out of more than 5,000 reported dog bites in Omaha were from puppies six months or younger, Wiese said.
A level-three bite breaks the skin but is the least serious of the bites that break skin.
“The threat that the animal causes when they're that age is almost minute,” said Councilman Tom Mulligan, who cosponsored the proposals with Councilman Ben Gray on behalf of the Humane Society.
Wiese said the current rule also poses a financial issue for pit bull owners.
“To get a muzzle to fit a pit bull puppy, you would have to buy at least three different muzzle sizes,” she said. “That's cost prohibitive. A lot of people aren't doing it.”
Mulligan said each muzzle costs about $40.
The city defines a pit bull as an American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, Dogo Argentino, Presa Canario, Cane Corso or American bulldog or any dog displaying the majority physical traits of any one or more of those breeds.
The council also will consider a change that will reduce the cost to retrieve an impounded animal, known as a redemption fee. For animals that are not spayed or neutered, the fee would decrease from $300 to $100 the first time an animal is impounded and from $600 to $300 for the second time.
The fees also will decline if an owner picks up an unaltered animal and provides proof within 90 days that the animal subsequently had been sterilized and micro chipped.
The fees for impounded sterilized animals will not change.
Wiese said the fees were increased in 2008 in hopes of discouraging people from letting their dogs run loose and to encourage people to spay or neuter their animals.
But the higher fees were causing fewer people to claim their animals, Wiese said. In the last two years, the Humane Society has seen a significant increase in the number of impounded animals left at Humane Society, she said.
That has increased the society's costs to spay, neuter, microchip and house animals prior to them being adopted out.
Other than the two recommended changes, other aspects of the 2008 rules appear to be working well, Wiese said.
Under the rules, pit bulls that are outdoors must be in a securely fenced yard, and their owners need at least $100,000 in liability insurance.
The rules also allowed the Humane Society to declare menacing dogs of any breed “potentially dangerous” after investigating complaints.
“Omaha is one of the leaders in the nation as far as our Humane Society laws with dogs go,” Mulligan said.
No muzzles for pit bull pups? - Omaha.com