MUSCATINE — Pitbull owners in Muscatine are breathing a little easier after getting a reprieve — but not closure — Thursday when the Muscatine City Council voted 5-2 to temporarily halt enforcement on the city’s pit bull ban for the next four months.
During the discussion, the council determined the suspension of the enforcement of the ban was an “experiment” and that it would be revisited in the future, depending on what happens. The moratorium does not allow people to bring new pit bulls into Muscatine and it does not remove the vicious animal ordinances.
‘During the moratorium, the council can discuss if you want to remove the code — just completely strike it,” city administrator Carol Webb said. ‘You can amend it, and I think if you keep the code in place you do want to amend it to make the code more clear. You can reinstate it or leave it alone.”
Council members John Jindrich and Dennis Froelich voted against the moratorium.
Council member Peggy Gordon started the discussion by apologizing to the other council members for the “sudden request” to stop the enforcement of the pit bull ban. She said the city has been working on improving the wording of many ordinances, from the pet ordinance to zoning, and she said her request was part of that.
“The breed ban has not kept up with technology,” she said. “It was implemented in 2003 — it’s been 18 years now — and we didn’t have things as easily available as a DNA test then. The ordinance is very vague. It is specific on breeds, but it is still vague.”
She believes a revised ordinance will be up for a vote soon. Gordon asked that the halting of the enforcement of the ban be implemented to give the council time to consider changes to the animal ordinance. Council member Nadine Brockert also said she had read the code and it didn’t allow any kind of appeal.
Gordon admitted the idea came up about 30 minutes before the Jan. 6 meeting and commented that voting not to enforce an ordinance is “not something you want to do daily.”
Jindrich, who has been opposed to the removal of the ban in the past, said he was not in favor of the motion. He believes the issue of the pit bull ban needs to be brought to a vote very quickly.
“It needs to come to a vote and get this settled as to whether Muscatine will have a pit bull ban, and move on with writing our animal law,” he said.
Froelich said he had a problem suspending a city code that is in effect and does not have due process.
Council member Angie Lewis said in discussions with a veterinarian, she learned “breed-specific bans don’t work.”
The council has been discussing the possibility of lifting the ban for over a year since former council member Kelcey Brackett brought the issue up. While discussion was sought from the community, the COVID-19 health emergency prohibited the discussion from occurring until late last year. It was determined at that time that the decision would be made after the new council was seated at the beginning of the year.
Council member Jeff Osborne said a significant amount of study had been done on the issues and that no matter the outcome during the meeting, the council was going to make about half the population angry. He assured everyone that they had been heard as the decision was being made.