Preston Moore, the Iowa State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, visited the Benton County Supervisor's meeting on Tuesday morning. This isn't the first time that he has been in Vinton on an animal case. He was working for theCedar Valley Humane Society in 2018 when he was called about the more than 700 animals found in theGalkowski house.
He said when he worked on the Galkowski case, he saw how the hands of law enforcement prosecutors were tied. At the time, if anyone saw animal cruelty, there wasn't a way to address it legally, so he worked to change the Iowa code in 2020. He's also worked on several other pieces of legislation in Iowa.
He discussed with the supervisors the upgrades made in other communities' dangerous animal ordinance. The ordinances address personal property rights in Iowa, allowing families to get whatever kind of dog they want. This allows the owners to keep all dogs as long as it hasn't done anything wrong.
Albia, Sioux City, Anamosa, Muscatine, Maquoketa, Laurel, North Liberty have all worked to change their ordinances to eliminate the pit bull ban. Moore said that the Humane Society recommends having several levels of classification. This allows that if there is an incident, law enforcement can deal with it. In case a dog might behave in a dangerous manner or pose a risk that there are restrictions that communities can place on those animals.
This places the responsibility of the behavior on the owner and the individual dog. The new suggested code idea that Moore proposes would both recognize the rights of the owner but place responsibility only on the animals that are causing issues. It also gives communities clear steps on dealing with problem animals.
Moore said that the economic impact would reduce the cost of animal control enforcement, kenneling, veterinary care, expenses related to euthanasia and disposal, potential litigation costs to the county.
Protecting personal property rights as well as balancing safety is always the goal. He said this also opens the door for more discussions about what it means to be a pet owner, the responsibilities. He said it opens up more community involvement in the care of pets. Sometimes these chances result in things like pet food banks to assist those that have a pet but might have trouble feeding it right now. Sometimes emergency kenneling organizations pop up that would provide care for animals of those escaping domestic abuse situations, or maybe being deployed, rather than turning the animals loose. He said since the changes in the communities he's worked with, there hasn't been any noticeable increase in incidents with animals including pit bulls.
Moore shared with the board reasons that dogs bite and the incidents where there were fatalities. Each of the studies indicated a 76% incident rate that was the fault of the owner not properly monitoring the dog. 37% of the time it's a stray that attacks. The owner's history of abuse or neglect of the animal came in at 21%. Most of these incidents could have been prevented.
He addressed that most people, unless they have been extensively trained cannot identify the breed of a dog properly. He addressed the issue of publicizing only pit bull bites as opposed to any other breed.
The Dangerous Animal codes that Moore is suggesting would give law enforcement more ways to address incidents which include the real dangerous animals that people try to keep like lions, tigers and bears.
Moore offered the resources of the Humane Society to the county any assistance in drafting a new ordinance.
The supervisors will be looking over all of the information in a packet that Moore presented to the county and will decide whether to address the issue at a later date.