As Chris Collins sat in his Anamosa home, he reflected on what has happened in the last 16 months since the City of Anamosa lifted their ban on pit bulls inside the city limits.
Collins became a familiar face around Anamosa City Council meetings and was an outspoken advocate for the City of Anamosa to lift their breed-specific ban. The debate started in 2017 but was then reignited in 2018 before the city agreed to lift the ban in February of last year.
Collins, having never owned a pit bull, may have seemed like an odd choice to lead the charge against the ban, but he said the ban almost forced him to pick up and move out of the city.
“I had almost let go and decided to move,” he said, “My girlfriend had a pit bull, and she wasn’t living here, but there was no way she could ever live here without it because I’m not going to ask her to give up her dog.”
The feedback he got from residents in town and rescues and shelters that reached out to him encouraged him to continue to fight to get the ban lifted.
He now has a pair, to go along with his third canine companion. In addition to his girlfriend’s dog, he also fosters a pit bull that was rescued, Scarlet.
“When we got her, she was about four or five hours from being put down,” Collins said.
The dog had her face covered in chemical burns and is what Collins said, given her condition, should have been a “poster child” for what should be a vicious dog, it would be her. The truth of the matter couldn’t be any further from that.
“She has probably been the biggest positive that’s come out of this,” he said. “She has been an amazing dog.”
The experience did influence his decision to foster a pit bull of his own.
Opponents of the lifting of the breed-specific ban worried about the dangers that pit bulls could have on the community, but so far, Anamosa Chief of Police Jeremiah Hoyt said his department hadn’t seen anything to suggest pit bulls were more likely to be involved in dog bite incidents.
Anamosa’s ban lifting sparked a conversation far beyond city limits. Collins said he talked with people from “dozens of towns” about pit bull bans, including Monticello, who upheld their ban in the aftermath of their discussion, Keota and as far away as Kansas City and other areas of Missouri.
When the ban was lifted last year, the city council also stepped up the penalties for dog owners not getting their dogs licensed. Under the new ordinance, owners that fail to license their dogs on an annual basis can be fined $65 for the first offense, $130 for the second, $260 for the third and $750 for the fourth offense, which also requires the dog’s removal from the city.
The result was an exponential rise in licenses. In the first licensing window alone, from June 1 to July 31, 2018, 180 licenses were issued. That signaled a 45 percent increase from the previous fiscal year and a 250 percent increase from two years ago. As part of that push, free dog licenses could be had during the city’s block party last summer, thanks to a generous resident.
Despite the increase in registrations, Hoyt said it’s not cutting down on issues for the police department.
“I don’t think the results are what we intended,” Hoyt said.
While the department is indeed licensing more dogs and not necessarily seeing an increase in animal-related calls, on incidents where the department is getting involved, dogs are still largely unlicensed.
“The majority of dog…cases we get, though, where somebody calls in a lost or found animal, most of the time, they’re not wearing tags,” Hoyt said. “We may be issuing them, but either they’re not wearing them, or these are the animal owners that are not coming in and buying them.”
Hoyt’s statement was reinforced by the recent dog bite case appealed before the city council, where the dog that bit someone was unlicensed and the owner was unaware of the city’s ordinance.
As the city heads into its second fiscal year with its new dog ordinances, with the new licensing window open until July 31, it’s clear there’s still a bit of work to be done in getting all dogs licensed in the city. However, from where Collins sits, despite the contentious nature of the discussion when lifting the ban, the experience has been nothing but positive.
“I haven’t had a single negative thing said to me,” he said.