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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Florissant Pit Bull Ban Isn't That Popular After All, Sunshine Law Request Reveals

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 6:27 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF FLICKR/MELISSA

Some Florissant officials have defended the St. Louis suburb’s 11-year-old ban on pit bulls as something supported by residents. But documents recently obtained by a pro-pit bull advocacy group using the Sunshine Law suggest the situation is, at minimum, a lot more complicated.

Mandy Ryan works with the groups Florissant Bully Alliance and Stop BSL (Breed-Specific Legislation). She says the Florissant Bully Alliance made a Sunshine Law request after hearing different things from various city council members about how much public support there was for the law.

After the request was approved, the group received 400 pages of emails sent to the city. The records covered all communication received from citizens regarding the ban from 2005 to the present.

Karen Runk, a member of Stop BSL who analyzed the emails, found that 344 of 348 individual communications about the ban were in opposition to it — or 98.9 percent of the public response.

Of the emails that came from Florissant residents, 74 opposed the ban and only two supported it.

Ryan says the emails indicates that some members of the council were being deceptive.

“They are going to say anything they can and do anything they can do defend the ban at this point,” she says.

That’s not limited to misrepresenting the public’s response. A survey commissioned by the city of Florissant last month reported that support and opposition to the pit bull ban were statistically tied. But some people have suggested the questions were tailored to elicit anti-pit bull sentiment. When Ryan’s group commissioned its own survey through the group Survey St. Louis, it found that 53.9 percent of residents opposed the ban, with only 11.2 percent in support and the rest undecided.

Ryan also pointed to an incident in which Florissant mayor Tom Schneider told Fox 2 News that a young boy had recently been attacked by a illegal pit bull, citing it as an example of why the ban protects public safety.

Again using the Sunshine Law, Ryan’s group obtained a copy of the bite incident report, which showed that the dog that attacked in this case was actually an English bulldog.

Reached by the RFT, Schneider says he was misinformed about the dog’s breed.

“The person that gave me that information received a reprimand,” he says.

Ryan also obtained documents from St. Louis County which showed the outcomes for pit bulls and pit bull mixes that were confiscated from Florissant residents. Of the 201 dogs confiscated between November 2011 and August 2016, 16 were sent to rescue groups or other shelters, seven were returned to their owners, and 17 were adopted.

164 were euthanized, at a total cost to the county of $6978.20. With an intake of $680 in adoption fees, that’s a $6298.20 loss.

“Our biggest goal now is to work with the city, not against it,” Ryan says. “It’s not just about saving dog’s lives, it’s about keeping families safe and increasing public safety.”

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated how many dogs have been seized by Florissant. It should have said 201, not 28. We regret the error.

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