During public comment at a Tuesday evening meeting of the Junction City Commission, multiple members of the public came forward to ask the city to lift its ban on pitbull-type dogs.
The speakers, members of an activist group called Legalize Bully JC, said their piece during public comment.
Kim Bradney said the breed-specific ban was “a flawed strategy” that singled out community members.
“Often they are forced to choose between keeping their beloved family member or staying in their home and community,” she said. " In a number of cases it has caused families to make the decision to not move to Junction City, but instead to move to Manhattan or surrounding community that has a far friendlier pitbull policy. Breed bans and restrictions waste precious shelter space and resources on dogs who already have loving homes and have done nothing wrong other than being the wrong kind of dog. These resources should be used for animals who are truly homeless.”
Often, according to Bradney, the Junction City/Geary County Animal Shelter is overrun with pitbull-type dogs which sit unadopted for months because they can’t be adopted out within the city limits and the shelter must look elsewhere for homes for them.
The ban has been around since the spring of 1997, she said, when the city signed it into law.
“According to the Daily Union, the commissioners did not debate the law,” Bradney said. "Nor did they allow the nearly 40 people who were at this meeting to speak before voting on it. I don't know about you, but it sounds to me as if those commissioners were not listening to the will of their constituents.”
Natasha Santiago, a former animal shelter worker, talked about a pitbull who was adopted out of the local shelter and who is being trained as a music therapy dog in Manhattan.
The animal is one of three pitbull-type dogs belonging to Owner of Emily’s Music School Emily Quiles.
"'We would love to open a second location in Junction City to better serve our clients there until the brief ban is lifted,'” Santiago said, quoting Quiles. "'We cannot and won't support Junction City in any way.’"
She said Quiles had otherwise expressed an interest in opening a branch of her business in Junction City and in taking part in therapy dog-focused events at the Dorothy Bramlage Public Library.
“I just wanted to share that you could get some business here,” Santiago said.
Shannie Timmons and her daughter, Heather Brito, said they had their dogs — both of whom were emotional support animals — taken away last summer and were then forced to board them at their own expense. The dogs are currently boarded outside the city limits at a cost of roughly $1,000 a month, Timmons said.
“I’ve never had any problems with my dogs,” she said. “They’re not aggressive."
According to Timmons, one of the dogs may not even be a pitbull. She said she believed the dog to be a boxer mix.
In order to find out, Timmons would have to have a DNA test conducted on the animal. She said she had been led to believe she would have to foot the bill for this test.
"It's unethical, it's costly,” she said. "Our shelters are full. It's like that all over the United States. We spend millions of dollars policing these dogs. I just don't think it's fair."
She and Brito have considered moving, but Timmons owns a home here and wants to keep it. She said she would likely have to rent if she moved elsewhere.
Rick Roberts also addressed the commission in favor of lifting the ban.
Roberts said he personally did not own a dog of any kind, let alone a pitbull, but said he felt the ban was bad for business.
He cited his position as chair of the Geary County Republican Party and Bradney’s position as chair of the Geary County Democratic Party as a signal that lifting the ban had bipartisan support.
He talked about the ways in which local government officials tried to drum up interest in Junction City, but said he believed the ban kept people from moving here.
"We're trying to get people to come to our town,” Roberts said. "I urge you not to wait until November for an election. That's another how many dozens of people that don't move to our city that's going to move someplace else. We're working tirelessly to get economic development in our town. And this is something that we could do simple to get things rolling into our town."
The commission did not vote to lift the ban, but Vice Mayor Jeff Underhill, Commissioner Ronna Larson, and Commissioner Nate Butler all said they’d be interested in seeing an ordinance drafted that would allow the ban to be lifted.
City Manager Allen Dinkel said he would start the process of preparing to draft such an ordinance.
This question of the breed ban comes before the commission at a time when communities around the state and the country are repealing similar breed-specific bans in favor of dangerous dog ordinances. Denver, Colorado passed a vote to repeal its ban on the dogs earlier this month. Prairie Village, a suburb of Kansas City, repealed its pitbull ban as well earlier this week.
This is not the first time members of Legalize Bully JC have approached the city about lifting the ban. They also petitioned, unsuccessfully, to repeal the ban in 2018.