Sioux City Reports Dog Bites Down After Crackdown

August 13, 2014

Six years after Sioux City, Iowa, officials cracked down on pit bulls and vicious dogs, fewer people are reporting cases of dog bites.

Police responded to 37 percent fewer dog bite complaints last year than they did in 2007, the year before the city banned pit bulls, according to police records reviewed by the Sioux City Journal.

The ban included an exception for owners who registered their pit bulls, but no new pit bulls were allowed. More than 550 were registered before the April 2009 deadline. That number has since declined to 163. An amendment to a vicious dog ordinance also included mandatory euthanasia for dogs that bite.

Police statistics show officers responded to 115 bite reports in 2008. The number declined every year since then with the exception of 2010, when 113 bites were reported. Seventy-three bites were reported in 2013.

Not all bites are reported to police. Less severe bites or those that do not require hospitalization may be handled by Animal Control.

Though he would like more information to determine for sure whether the ban was responsible for the decrease, Councilman Pete Groetken said the declining numbers show something positive is happening.

Dog experts say it’s not clear whether the decline in reported bites is due to the city’s ban or other factors, such as bites that go unreported.

Pit bull owners say the ban unfairly singles out one breed.

Sioux City resident Lisa Vaughan, owner of a registered pit bull, said all the ban did is unfairly target pit bull owners and their dogs, when any dog is capable of attacking people. Vaughan found the dog abandoned along Military Road and rescued him in March 2009, just before the registration deadline.

“I used to be a dog groomer,” she said. “Trust me. I know all dogs can bite.”

Sarah Fisher, owner of another of the city’s registered pit bulls, said the pit bull ban isn’t fair and negatively impacts the lives of her dogs and her family.

She and Vaughan are among the owners allowed to keep pit bulls they owned before the ban. Pit bulls like theirs must be registered each year. If they aren’t, the animals can be impounded by Sioux City Animal Control.

“You feel like it’s not just a personal attack against your dog, (but) it’s almost an attack against your character as a person,” said Fisher. “They put a stigma or a label on the type of person who owns a pit bull.”

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