Council votes to keep ban on pit bull type dogs in Southgate, Kentucky

Posted at 12:48 AM, Sep 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-20 01:10:51-04

SOUTHGATE, Ky. -- City Council on Wednesday night voted 5-1 to nix a proposed ordinance that would have allowed Southgate residents to own pit bull type dogs within city limits, although it would also have defined those dogs as innately "vicious or dangerous" based on breed.

The change to the city code would have, if passed, allowed Southgate households to own one "vicious or dangerous" dog, requiring also that they keep the dog in a humane enclosure when it spent time outdoors, spay or neuter it and take out a minimum $100,000 insurance policy to protect against "any injury or death caused by such (a) dog."

Council member Joe Anderson, the lone affirmative vote, said he did not feel strongly in favor of pit bull type dogs -- a category which includes various AKC-qualified bull terrier breeds as well as mixed-breed dogs with common characteristics such as a broad, flat head. However, he said he believed the city government should not prohibit residents from owning certain types of pets.

"With the rules and regulations that we put in … I thought we were looking at both sides of the issue," he said. "I thought we did our due diligence."

To the disappointment of some breed advocates and residents who might hope to own a pit bull type dog, his five fellow council members voted the proposed ordinance down.

Francisca Huston, a Southgate resident who owns a boxer she described as a "sweetheart," said she didn't believe government should make sweeping generalizations about animals based on breed. 

Fellow resident Bobby Blankenship agreed.

"At the end of the day, I think it's up to the owner to train their dogs," he said. 

Debates over the ownership of pit bull type dogs are as common as headlines describing maulings allegedly committed by such dogs. On one side fall advocacy organizations such as the Cincinnati Pit Crew, a pit-specific rescue organization which hopes to rehabilitate the image of dog types its leaders believe are unfairly stigmatized and discriminated against. 

Those who believe pit bull type dogs possess a genetic combination of aggression and physical strength that makes them a danger to human beings fall on the other.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, many pit bull type dogs are descended from dogs specifically bred to fight -- first bulls and, later, other dogs. Many others are descended from dogs specifically bred as family companions. Given the amount of genetic mixing and matching that has occurred over the group's century-plus in existence, the ASPCA's official stance is that "it is important to evaluate and treat each dog, no matter its breed, as an individual."

The organization added: "While a dog's genetics may predispose it to behave in certain ways, genetics do not exist in a vacuum. … Early positive experiences, most notably socialization, are considered key in preventing aggressive tendencies in dogs."

There are no statewide bans on pit bull type dogs, but many individual cities have legislation banning or regulating their presence.