The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

September 5, 2013

Camanche council ponders pit bull ban

Clinton dog attacks cited as one reason

CAMANCHE — An ordinance banning pit bulls could be put into effect for the city of Camanche sometime in the not-so-distant future.

A discussion regarding that ordinance came up at the Camanche City Council meeting Tuesday, and it received mixed reviews from the council.

City Attorney Thomas Lonergan originally brought up the issue at an Aug. 6 meeting, asking the council to consider an adjustment to the current ordinance that would grandfather in a rule banning pit bulls.

"We're not planning on taking any action at this point but I think it is a topic that is really a prudent discussion," Lonergan said.

He referenced two recent pit bull attacks in Clinton for bringing the conversation up again. One sent a man to the University of Iowa hospitals with nearly fatal injuries; in another incident, a woman was attacked while sitting on the curb near her home.

Longeran also brought up a situation that happened last spring, when a pit bull forced a Clinton police officer to the roof of her cruiser to avoid an attack from the vicious dog.

Although he didn't request the council to act on anything at Tuesday's meeting, Lonergan strongly urged council members to consider the option of a pit bull ban before an incident happens that will force them into action.

"We could grandfather in the pit bulls that are already here and then over time they would eventually be banned from the city," Lonergan said. "We don't want to take away the opportunity for present pit bull owners to have to get rid of their dog. But, if we don't take some action and an incident occurs then we're going to be wishing we had done something."

Councilman Paul Varner suggested instead of banning pit bulls that the council create stricter punishments for owners whose dogs become a nuisance in the community.

"Instead of distinguishing breed maybe what we ought to look at is the severity of the punishment for whatever damage they do," Varner said.

The issue with that, according to Councilman Trevor Willis, is that if the punishment is what the council acts on there is still the event that an attack could happen in the city.

"Why do we want to wait until there's damage?" Willis asked. "We need to be more proactive than that."

Council members agreed something should be done in regard to the dangerous dog ordinance in the future but they were not the only ones to speak on the issue at Tuesday's meeting.

Pit bull owner Bill Vilmont spoke up in defense for his dogs, saying the issues associated with pit bulls typically stem from improper training and misuse by the owners.

"Any dog that I have raised myself will never be dangerous, I can attest to that," Vilmont said. "They just have to be trained to be familiar with people."

In response to that, City Administrator Tom Roth referred to a situation in Waterloo where a woman and teenage boy were attacked by three dogs, two of which were pit bulls. In a report from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, the owner of one of the pit bulls said he had never had a problem with the dog before.

"That's often what you hear," Roth said. "They have never been a problem until they are a problem, but then they become the problem and then it's too late."

The council decided to take a look at the current vicious dog ordinance to see what it can do to make stricter rules and punishments before moving forward with an ordinance banning the breed.

"I'd just hate to be reactionary and wait for the other shoe to drop," Willis said.

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