17 December 2003
It's the pits
Ottumwa, Iowa, a picturesque town on the Des Moines River, does not like pit bull terriers: they are classified as a "dangerous animal" and are banned within the city limits.
This is not, in itself, particularly unusual. What's weird here is that the city seems to be extending the very definition of the breed. The promotional material for the Southeastern Iowa Kennel Club's February shows, to be held in Ottumwa, reprints what is represented as the pertinent city ordinance [requires Adobe Acrobat Reader], and this is what Ottumwa apparently considers to be a "pit bull":
An American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed of dog; a mixed breed of dog which contains as an element of its breeding the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier as to be identifiable as partially of the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier; or, a dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being an American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed or mixed breed of dog which contains as an element of its breeding the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier.
As far as the American Kennel Club is concerned, these are three separate breeds of dog. (The AKC does not register American Pit Bull Terriers.) More to the point, "Heinz 57" mutts are banned if they have any ancestors among these breeds, whether or not any breed characteristics can be discerned in an individual dog. The dog shows in Ottumwa will not accept any entries for any of these breeds.
In late summer, a lawsuit was filed against the city challenging the ordinance.
Terriers, by nature, have a certain amount of attitude: they do tend to push their envelope just a bit. This is part of what makes them terriers, and indeed a meek dog is likely to be marked down by a terrier judge at a show. But attitude does not equal viciousness, and ordinances such as Ottumwa's, I think, ignore the fact that any animal can become vicious if it is ill-treated, and this is is the fault, not of the dog, but of the dog's owner. I've known too many sweet-tempered Rottweilers to believe anything else.