JEFFERSON CITY - Representatives from animal shelters across the state appeared before a House committee, Tuesday, Feb. 11, urging lawmakers to support legislation that would prohibit cities from banning ownership of specific dog breeds, such as pit bulls.
The bill, presented to the House General Laws Committee would set a state-wide standard for dog ownership. Bill sponsor, Rep. Ron Hicks, R-St. Peters, said he didn't want cities banning individuals from owning specific dog breeds. He said it was a property rights issue.
"Any dog can bite," Hicks said. "Why are we only picking out a few?"
Hicks said cities across the state have already enacted laws that ban owners from owning specific dog breeds. He says his bill, which he calls the "dog anti-discrimination act," would undo these laws and would create law that would be applied state-wide.
Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said that he was concerned about the body infringing upon local government authority, and said he believed the local governments could handle this matter on their own.
"I don't trust this body," Webber said. "I trust my city's council and mayor more."
Shannon Wells, from the Kansas City Pet Project also testified in favor of the bill. She said breed discrimination bills end up costing shelters more money. If an illegal dog is impounded in a shelter, the owner is responsible for paying fines to retrieve their pet. Wells said this often leads to the owners abandoning the dog at the shelter, who then has to pick up the cost of feeding and caring for the animal.
Rep. Don Gosen, R-St. Louis County, also said he was concerned about telling the cities how to handle dangerous dogs.
Hicks, urged that a dog's behavior is based more on the owner's actions. He said owners should be reliable for their pets.
"Dogs are part of our family," Hicks said.
Representatives from the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association and the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners also testified in support of the bill. No one testified in opposition.
As is normal when a bill is first heard by a committee no action was taken.