Hannibal, MO May Consider “Pit Bull” Ban or Restrictions

From the Hannibal Courier-Post:

…A Hannibal letter carrier for 20 years thinks [Hannibal has a problem with dangerous dogs] and on Tuesday night asked the city council to do something about it.  

“We have a pit bull problem in this town and its out of control,” said Susan Schubert. “Its time the laws on the books were enforced and pushed further.”

Councilman Kevin Knickerbocker asked about the citys dangerous dog ordinance. Police Chief Lyndell Davis said that while the city does have such an ordinance, it is reactive in nature.

“The laws are working as designed, but for them to work you have to have a victim,” said Davis.

…[Mayor] Hark asked for Davis to meet with Schubert and to begin a review of other communities bans and see what could be crafted to meet Hannibals needs…

Read this article in its entirety here.

We would respectfully refer Ms. Schubert and the Hannibal City Council to our “Pit Bull” is Not a Breed page.   We would also point out to Ms. Schubert and the council that breed-specific legislation (BSL) has proven to be a dismal failure in the U.S. and worldwide.   For example, the Toronto Humane Society in a survey of cities released statistics in May 2010 that “establishes Ontario’s 2005 ban on “pit bull” breeds or dogs that resemble pit bulls has not made any difference in the number of dog bites.”   Italy and the Netherlands both repealed their BSL within the last couple of years citing its ineffectiveness, and it has been widely reported in the BBC that the UK’s BSL, which they’ve had since 1991, is a dismal failure since there has been a huge rise in banned breeds in the UK.   Efforts are now underway to repeal the UK ban.

And, as we say so often here, Denver’s ban has not been as successful as its defenders would have folks believe, nor has it withstood all legal challenges. (See Margolius v. City of Denver.)   Toledo’s ban was ruled unconstitutional in January 2010, and an effort is currently underway in the Ohio Senate to remove the dangerous dog designation for “pit bulls” via an amendment to HB 55.   And Rockville Centre, NY, repealed their BSL just yesterday.

As ever, elected officials are tasked with creating laws by considering a problem, like Ms. Schubert has raised, researching possible answers, and then constructing legislation, if necessary, that is rational, effective, and constitutional.   Breed-specific legislation is not rational, effective, or constitutional.   And while laws are “reactive” as Police Chief Davis says, they can also act as deterrents when the penalties for breaking them are severe enough and there is enforcement of the laws already on the books.   As I noted in my letter to the council,

“Banning or restricting specific breeds in an attempt to curb the behavior of a few irresponsible owners is like punishing people for pre-crimes, which is not the American way, but in fact the way of authoritarianism.   Our legal system is set up to punish actual law breakers, not those thought to be potential law breakers based on some arbitrary designation like the breed of dog they happen to own.   Also, because irresponsible owners usually already aren’t abiding by the law by containing their dogs (among other things), these same irresponsible owners aren’t likely to adhere to a breed ban or restrictions.   As such, breed-specific legislation ends up penalizing innocent citizens who were already abiding by the law.”

Perhaps Hannibal would benefit by simply increasing the fines and penalties and stepping up enforcement of their already-existing dangerous dog law.

Please send your polite opposition letters to the Mayor and members of the Hannibal City Council at the following links:

The Honorable Mayor Roy Hark

City Council contact links:





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