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Animal control officials back new law that bars bans on dog breeds – St. George Daily Spectrum

Ken Hedler 9:45 p.m. MST January 9, 2015

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Pitbulls at the St. George Animal Shelter await adoption as the breed popularity declines. Jan. 9, 2015.(Photo: Chris Caldwell / The Spectrum & Daily News)

ST. GEORGE – A new state law that bars municipalities from banning specific dog breeds, such as pit bulls, enjoys the support of animal control officials from three area jurisdictions.

The officials said pit bulls and their crossbreeds are no more aggressive than any other breeds but get a bad rap because of highly publicized cases where pit bulls attacked people in recent years.

“Dobermans got a bad rap in the ’90s,” said St. George Police Sgt. Ivor Fuller, who is in charge of the city’s animal shelter. “Pit bulls are what got the media attention.”

Fuller’s counterpart at the Ivins City Animal Shelter & Adoption Center, Aggie Smith, concurred, saying, “there is a lot of discrimination about pit bulls because nobody cares if Chihuahuas are biting somebody.”

Fuller, Smith and Linda Melin, animal control officer for the City of Hurricane, lauded the law that went into effect on New Year’s Day for barring discrimination.

The law’s author, State. Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said 10 Utah cities had bans against owning dogs such as pit bulls that are perceived as being more aggressive, The Associated Press reported.

The law nullifies local ordinances and prevents new ones from being adopted.

Those municipalities were South Jordan, North Salt Lake, Springville, Delta, Duchense, Fillmore, Garland, Honeyville, Morgan, The AP reported.

South Jordan outlawed pit bulls after a girl was attacked while walking home in 1997.

“We have never had any kind of ban here,” said Melin, who has worked in animal control for Hurricane for about 16 years. “We have never had an issue with a breed ban.”

Melin, Fuller and Smith report that their offices field occasional calls about dog bites with pit bulls rarely being the culprit.

Dachshunds are responsible for the most calls about dog bites with Ivin City’s jurisdiction, Smith said.

“That means biting their own owners,” Smith said. “They have a long snout. They don’t see very well. Usually, the littler dogs tend to be more like yappers.”

A lot of small dogs bite people, but they receive less concern because the damage “is so small due to minimal injury,” Fuller said.

However, he acknowledged that pit bulls can inflict more damage because they are bigger.

“My opinion is the pit bulls are no more aggressive than we as the owners make them,” Fuller said.

Fuller acknowledged that it has been more of a challenge to adopt pit bulls and pit bull crosses because of their stigma of being aggressive.

“But, we have been extremely successful in adopting pit bills and their mixes,” Fuller said. “We adopt them out to families. We adopt them out to older people.”

Pit bulls can be harder to adopt because they, like Rottweilers and German shepherds, are considered a “niche” dog, Smith said.

“It is a small amount of people who will adopt them — and from shelters,” Smith said.

One challenge making it more difficult to adopt pit bulls is people breed them and cannot find enough homes for a litter of puppies, Melin said.

The owners might give the puppies to friends, who in turn determine they cannot take care of them.

The new owners then bring the pit bulls to the shelter or leave them behind when they move, Melin said.

Animal control officers pick up some of the pit bulls as strays.

Melin said the Hurricane shelter on Wednesday housed four pit bull crosses that awaited adoption.

“They are all adults,” she said. “They are all between a year and four (years). They are all good-natured.”

The St. George shelter as of Thursday had eight dogs ready for adoption, with half of them being pit bull mixes, Fuller said.

Two of the pit bull mixes arrived at the shelter as strays.

The Ivins City shelter this past week adopted out a pit bullthat had been staying at the shelter for a month, Smith said.

Follow Ken Hedler, @keninDixie2014.

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