City commissioners should take a little more time to come up with useful and enforceable revisions in the animal control ordinance.
The Lawrence City Commission took the right action Tuesday night by taking no action at all on a proposed pit bull terrier ban.
As commissioners concluded, the key to protecting local residents is to identify vicious dogs of any breed and aggressively enforce measures to hold their owners responsible for their behavior.
The ordinance that was on the table Tuesday would have outlawed any new pit bull terriers in Lawrence and required owners to carry liability insurance and keep each dog in a separate pen or on a short leash. Some of the measures would have been difficult to enforce and would have punished dog owners who are responsible and concerned about the safety of their dogs as well as the people with whom they come in contact.
After considerable feedback from local residents, commissioners took a step back and considered exactly what measures would accomplish their desired goal. Those include focusing on dogs that are "dangerous" or "vicious (not just those that are members of a specific breed), stronger leash laws and possibly a licensing program that might include the implantation of microchips to identify dogs and their owners.
Perhaps the most important measure supported by commissioners Tuesday night, however, was the possibility of hiring more animal control officers so that enforcement hours for animal ordinances can be extended. Almost without exception, a vicious dog that is involved in a violent incident with a human or another dog has been widely perceived as a threat in its neighborhood for some time. Increased monitoring and investigation of such dogs is key to reducing violent incidents. Without increased personnel, it would be too easy for residents to elude whatever ordinances city commissioners approve.
Pit bull terriers have been involved in many incidents throughout the country that have seriously injured or killed other dogs or humans, but they aren't the only breed capable of such behavior if they are not properly trained and supervised. Although many people would prefer not to have pit bulls in their neighborhoods, blanket ordinances to ban the dogs probably are unfair and would be too difficult to enforce.
City commissioners shouldn't back down on addressing this important public safety issue, but it probably was wise to reconsider the proposed ordinance and develop a better law that will accomplish the goals that are in the public's best interests.