As long as Junction City has a pitbull ban, pitbulls will be a hot topic among people who live within the city limits.
Not everyone is in favor of the ban and, in recent years, those who are against it have mobilized to form a group called Legalize Bully JC.
Last year, the group started a petition to lift the ban, but fell about 200 signatures short of the goal.
However, members have rallied and are again gathering signatures from registered voters who live in Geary County and hope to see the ban eliminated.
Readers may have noticed members sitting outside the former location of the Pampered Pet, set up with their table and a copy of the petition for like-minded passersby to sign.
Kim Bradney was on duty Thursday evening, gathering signatures.
“Unfortunately, (the authorities) are out and about, trying to take people’s dogs again,” she said.
According to Bradney, many pitbull owners have contacted group members personally or through the Legalize Bully Facebook page asking for help, saying the authorities are trying to take away their dogs. According to Bradney, some of the dogs aren’t even pitbulls — they just look like them to the untrained eye.
“They have that look about them,” she said. “So basically if it’s short haired and it’s got a stocky build and a blocky head. I don’t know exactly how (the ACO) is determining it, but basically anything that looks pitbull.”
This is within the law, according to the city ordinance, Bradney said — if it looks like a pitbull, it effectively is one until proven otherwise by DNA test.
For herself, Bradney has chosen to take part in the effort to lift the ban because she doesn’t believe there’s such a thing as a bad dog — only bad owners.
“It’s just a fight that I have chosen to take on,” she said. “We’ll just keep fighting.”
While, she said, bad owners sometimes gravitate toward certain types of dogs — pitbulls being one of them — she doesn’t think that means any of those breeds are bad.
“We’re not outlawing German shepherds, or rottweilers, or any other type of dog that could be considered a dangerous dog,” she said. “I’ve encountered more dangerous poodles than I have pitbulls.”
Bradney is concerned about the number of people who she said are being driven off by the ban, into communities which don’t have one such as Manhattan or Abilene.
“It does affect us,” she said.
According to Bradney, the ban doesn’t stop people from keeping their dogs.
By the group’s estimate, there are more than 500 pitbulls living in Junction City despite the ban. The dogs have to be kept carefully hidden, she said.
“It’s not working,” Bradney said. “And then they don’t get socialized and they can’t take them to the vet or they have to take them to other vets outside of town and that kind of stuff. So it’s just — it’s time.”
Several people stopped by to sign Thursday evening. Mary Forgey and her brother, Matt Gibson, signed.
“Even though I don’t own a dog, I don’t agree with the policy,” she said.
“We already have an aggressive dog ban,” Gibson said. “We don’t need a breed-specific ban.”
Ruth Montoya signed the petition, as well.
“I just think the ban is ridiculous,” she said. “It’s not the breed, it’s just ridiculous, it’s absolutely ridiculous. I grew up with pitbulls. I knew a lot of people with pitbulls ... There should be no dog, no matter the breed, that should be banned.”
Group members plan to walk neighborhoods in Junction City, knocking on doors to gather signatures.
The hope is, if the city commission refuses to repeal the ban after being presented with the petition in about six months, the group can force a special election.
Former Pampered Pet Owner Emily Fawcett believes the general population, if presented with the chance, would vote the ban down.
Fawcett lives in pitbull-ban-free Lawrence rather than Junction City these days, but she’s still involved in Legalize Bully JC. “I am very confident that the people are going to show up in droves at this special election and are going to do the right thing,” Fawcett said.
She has acquired several pitbulls since her move — she has five of them. She said she has often been asked to adopt Junction City residents’ pitbulls.
“The pleas that are coming out of Junction City — this is destroying families, this is hurting people, and it’s hurting Junction City,” Fawcett said.
According to Fawcett, it’s hard for the Junction City/Geary County Animal Shelter to adopt out pitbulls and pit mixes.
Shelter manager Vanessa Gray said that the shelter is often full of such dogs.
When asked if lifting the ban would help, she said she believed it would.
“It would probably help us so they could stay in their homes and things like that,” Gray said.
She said that when a pit or pit mix enters the shelter, even if an owner comes to claim it, if that owner lives within the Junction City limit, the dog can’t be returned. If it’s picked up at all, it has to be picked up by someone who lives outside the city. Pits and pit mixes also can’t be adopted out within the city limits. This can sometimes lead to dogs having extended stays at the shelter.
If the ban is lifted?
“Responsible owners is going to be the key thing,” Gray said. “Responsibility is going to just be huge, if it does get lifted.”