With residents split, pit bull ban becomes a hot topic as Independence reevaluates its policy

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — The city of Independence held a meeting for people to sound off about pit bulls Wednesday night.

A committee is looking into if the breed ban should stay in place or be removed. It’s definitely a hot-button issue around town.

“Dogs are dogs,” Julie Forbis said. “It’s how you treat them and how you train them. My daughter has pit bulls, and we have babies. The pit bulls are fine around the babies. It’s how the people make the pit bulls.”

But others are more hesitant.

“There are some that are maybe OK, but how do you tell the difference between a good one and a bad one?” David Lighthill said. “After they bite the kid? It’s just too late then.”

For the past 13 years, the city has banned the breed. Now, a committee is looking at whether that ban should be removed.

Jason White is the chairman of the city’s breed specific ordinance committee.

“The real issue here is how do we make sure people feel safe when they’re on their property and when they’re walking around their neighborhoods,” White said.

The committee of five is evaluating the ban and the city’s dangerous dog ordinance. They asked people to come out and speak their minds Wednesday night.

“There’s a lot of people with life experience, so let’s benefit from that as we have our conversations,” White said. “Many of them may know of some other information that we ought to be looking at, and there’s certainly folks with opinions on the matter.”

People around town are definitely torn.

“I don’t know. I think I would lean toward no, and that’s not because of the dog, but I just don’t think a lot of the owners are responsible enough,” Debra Heck said.

“A lot of people love pit bulls anyway, and they’re really not violent, so people really shouldn’t judge the dog on the breed when it’s really the owners that aren’t raising their dogs right because any dog can be violent,” Amanda Jolly said.

While most seem to agree it’s more the owner than the breed — the ban is in place for now.

“I’m sorry you can’t have your dog,” Lighthill said. “All I can say is move out of Independence. If they’re OK somewhere else, I hate to tell you to move, but I just think it’s better.”

“I hope the ban is lifted,” Jolly said. “I think it would just be great for the people out there that do have pit bulls to be able to have the dog that they love.”

The committee will review the statements and data they collect to create a report. If the report is approved, it will head to the City Council. That process is expected to happen sometime after the new year.

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