After months of maneuvering a lifelong Council Bluffs woman is faced with a difficult decision: change the laws of the city she lives in, or move.
Shala Richardson is on a mission to reverse a ban on pit bulls that has been in place for more than a decade.
Back in 2004 the city council put a ban in place on three separate dogs known as “bully breeds.”
“It’s just day-by-day,” said Richardson. “Day-by-day. It’s like a rollercoaster.”
Stitch is a pit bull that came to Richardson’s family five years ago. Originally from the Nebraska Humane Society, Stitch lived in Nebraska with Richardson’s daughter. When she moved closer to her family in Council Bluffs the dog joined the rest of the family. Richardson told WOWT 6 News she wasn’t even aware of the ban.
In July a humane society worker from Council Bluffs arrived at the home of the Richardsons. They were told they had seven days to remove the dog.
“It's not because she did anything wrong, in fact, she greeted her wagging her tail,” said Richardson.
Now Stitch spends her days in the backyard of a family friend outside of the city. The Richardsons get to see her a few days a week, but they’re fighting to bring her home. In fact, a petition has been started to amend or repeal the law that bans pit bulls in Council Bluffs.
The road to create a change hasn’t been easy. So far, Richardson said only one city council member seems 100-percent certain that they’re willing to bring the issue before council. To get the item on the agenda would require a minimum of two council members, and three members would need to approve anything in order to send it to the Mayor Matt Walsh. Walsh, who fought the initial ban in 2004, has promised to veto any such repeal or amendment that reaches his desk.
“I was opposed to the breed ban when people had pets that were pit bulls,” said Walsh explaining that as family pets that were “grandfathered” into the city code have aged, he doesn’t see the point to allow new pit bulls into the city.
Walsh doesn’t take the argument lightly, in fact, he said it’s a touchy subject which has put him in a unique situation where he’s now alienated both sides over the years.
According to Walsh, it’s a matter of what’s best for the public in general. He doesn’t deny that there are people who can raise pit bulls without issue. Walsh believes that the issue lies within those who won’t raise dogs safely.
“I don't know how the city can win in this instance,” said Walsh. “If we bring back pit bulls and somebody gets bit, it's because we brought them back.”
Richardson doesn’t believe it’s so black-and-white. While a number of websites track dog bites, and the aggressiveness of dogs she cites numerous studies that paint a different picture. The statistics themselves cause debate, many people question the legitimacy of websites that track the numbers themselves. The bottom line, Richardson doesn’t believe her dog should be painted in a light because of how others have treated other dogs.
“She thinks she’s a big lap dog,” said Richardson. “She just wants to love, it’s like when you go to the mailbox. When you come back inside she’s smiling and excited, it’s like every moment is a celebration.”
For now the celebrations are cut short each day. Stitch has to stay at her friend’s house.
With the Mayor threatening to veto any legislation that comes up, that means that Richardson will have to find a way to get a new ordinance before the council, and a 4-to-1 super majority to overturn a veto in the event the Mayor doesn’t change his mind. He told WOWT 6 News he doesn’t plan to, pointing out that many in the community have stopped him to tell him not to do so.
Which is why Richardson said it’s time to consider moving. She said she’s not willing to go yet, because she loves Council Bluff and the community in which she lives. Stitch, however, is like family and watching her cry when she has to leave her behind every few days isn’t getting any easier.
Click here to view the petition.