SANDY - Punish the deed, not the breed.
That message was carried by close to 200 dog lovers Tuesday night who packed the Sandy City Council Chambers to protest a plan to place restrictions on owners of pit bulls and Rottweilers.
"We need to address the dog owners with dogs that have actual problems," Sandy resident Steve Edmunds said at a public hearing that spanned more than two hours. It would be "more proactive and inclusive to have all dogs treated fairly regardless of their breeds."
Rich Bergan, Sandy's director of animal control, has proposed a code amendment that would place owners of dogs that have been deemed "dangerous" by the city because of violent behavior, along with all owners of pit bulls and Rottweilers, including mixes, on a tighter leash.
Owners of restricted breeds would be required to keep dogs in roofed enclosures in their yards or inside their homes at all times unless on a leash and muzzled. The dogs would have to be implanted with microchips for identification and tracking. Owners would have to notify the city if a dog changed hands.
"If someone chooses to own an animal of that breed," Bergan told the council, "we're going to ask them to step up the special precautions to make sure their neighbors are safe and their dogs are safe."
Bergan cited national and local statistics that showed high rates of bites by pit bulls and Rottweilers. He said, on Tuesday morning, two pit bulls escaped a home, terrorized a neighborhood and attacked an animal control officer.
There also have been incidents of maulings of children and killings of other dogs, he said.
"What jumps out at all of us is the number of maulings and deaths attributed to these two breeds," he said.
But members of the audience, many of them dog trainers or veterinary workers, responded with their own studies and cited instances across the nation where breed-specific dog ordinances have proved ineffective.
They said almost all pit bull-caused fatalities are at the jaws of unneutered males.
The solution, many suggested, is to increase spays and neuters and educate owners on how to socialize their dogs.
Requiring those breeds to always be muzzled in public would only increase vicious behavior, they said.
A petition against the rule change has gathered 800 signatures.
"It's like an encyclopedia that was delivered to us," City Councilman Chris McCandless said, after a number of commentators dropped off materials at the dais.
The council agreed unanimously to delay making a decision on the code amendment. Council Chairman Scott Cowdell suggested creating an advisory committee with some of the canine professionals to help refine the proposed rules. South Jordan bans pit bulls.
Provo is crafting a vicious dog ordinance, but it is not breed-specific.