Listen to Interview
Indianapolis, IN - On March 5, radio talk show host Greg Browning interviewed Assistant City Attorney Don Bauermeister about the Council Bluffs, Iowa pit bull ban. The interview followed two pit bull attacks that occurred on March 4 in Indianapolis. One of the incidents involved victim James Bates, who was attacked by a pit bull that had been recently adopted from the Human Society of Indianapolis. The other incident involved police officer Jeffrey Viewegh.
Browning: "Joining me now, my guest, Assistant City Attorney Don Bauermeister, tell me the dateline on how you finally end up banning these dogs?"
Bauermeister: "In January of 2005 the city council had passed -- in the fall of 2004 -- had passed a pit bull ban, which allowed for existing pit bulls to remain with lots of strings attached. They could stay in, so basically we grandfathered in the existing pit bulls, but the ban took place. We started enforcement in January of 2005.
Now in 2004, we had a terrible year.
We are a small city of about 60 to 70 thousand people, and in 2004, before our ban took place, we had 29 people rushed to the emergency room with various injuries and pit bulls were our number one attacker, number one dog biter.
We passed a ban and started enforcing it in January of 05, at the end of 05 our numbers had dropped down to 19 people injured by pit bulls. In 06, the numbers dropped to 7 people injured by pit bulls. In 07, 2007 we only had two people injured by pit bulls and we haven't had a person injured by pit bulls since. So in 2008 and 2009 we had zero attacks. As of March 5th, 2010 we have yet to have a pit bull injury here in Council Bluffs."
Browning: "With this kind of a decision Don, what has been the backlash, if at all, of those who love their pit bulls?"
Bauermeister: "My boss has been here given close to thirty years and he told me that this was the most controversial thing the city council has ever done. We had, we got bombarded with emails, phone calls, faxes, from all over the country. The group who advocates on behalf of the pit bulls is a very organized group. They belong to Yahoo groups...through social networking they are very well organized. This is a lot of money, and there are a lot of political story lines in the shadows that people don't realize just how organized this group is, that advocate of behalf of pit bulls.
The problem is, you don't have anybody advocating for the victims. Again, like one of our city council member's said during this whole discussion and debate was, he made a comment that a pit bull wasn't much more than a stick of dynamite with a tail on it."
Browning: "And I would say there have been many people in our community that would agree with you. We've had callers that have talked about being bitten multiple times and every time it happens to be the pit bull in their community as opposed to different breeds."
Bauermeister: "Well, you know, it's easy logic: Any dog can bite right? We all agree on that, but that's not the point. The point of it is the damage that they cause. It's not a propensity to attack or a likelihood -- that a pit bull is more likely to bite you than a Chihuahua or a Dachshund -- that's not the point. The point of it is the damage that they do.
To draw some parallel examples, it's okay for us to go buy a little small firecracker, but we can't go out and buy a hand grenade right?"
Bauermeister: "But why is that? They are both explosives; they both can hurt you right? But which one is going to do more damage?"
Browning: "Yeah, a caller had mentioned -- actually gave an example similar to that yesterday -- in terms of if you had your choice between a little foo-foo dog biting you or having to take one on would you choose that or would you choose the pit bull?
So as you say, certainly no one wants the grenade, you'd rather handle the firecracker."
Bauermeister: "Well Greg, why is it that the country of England, where these dogs come from, if you do your research on Staffordshire bull terriers, that's a village that's a town in England. Now why is it that the country of England, our closest ally, in 1991 at a federal level banned pit bulls? And this is where the dogs originally come from."
Browning: "Don as far as lawsuits, but because your decision, have you seen any?"
Bauermeister: "No. There were all kinds of threats, and you've got the several organizations out there that I won't name by name to avoid conflicts and people getting upset, but there are several groups you will get phone calls from, from all over the country, and they'll threaten you will all kinds of lawsuits. But here's the thing Greg, I've done the research. I am a lawyer. And court after court after court has upheld -- municipalities enjoy the very clearly an American jurisprudence police powers to regulate this area."
Browning: "Have you had any other nuisances in your community similar to the pit bulls?"
Bauermeister: "There's a lot of rhetoric and argument that these thugs that were responsible for the pit bulls, that they'll just go out and grab another dog and we're going to see a problem with some sort of replacement dog. That has not happened. That's simply false, and it's rhetoric, and it hasn't happened in Denver either.
I think our number two biter may be Labrador retrievers, but that's relatively speaking. We have thousands more Labradors here in the Midwest than we do pit bulls licensed. So, it's a number's game.
You have to understand, pit bulls make up between two to five percent of the total dog population in the United States, yet, they account for -- year end and year out -- 60% [of fatal dog attacks]. So if we look at pie charts, [pit bulls] are sliver of the total dog population. There have been seven people killed this year already and it's what March 5th? That's one [person dead] every nine days.
We hear about a shark attack off the coast of Florida -- there's been one person killed in the United States by a shark [this year] -- it's front and center. All the major [national] news networks cover that, but we don't cover pit bulls killing a 58-year old man in Chicago or a 38-year old woman in Philadelphia or a 3-year old in California. We don't hear about that. Are we supposed to "accept" that, but we don't want to accept a shark out in the ocean?"
Browning: "Don, we've run into the same problem here in the community of Indianapolis. It was a couple years back; I remember the same thing. It was once there was one story of a pit bull attacking somebody -- actually it was a 2-year old and it was just a terrible tragedy. Then it got the media's attention. Then all of a sudden when there was another pit bull attack, it was multiple stories in the media."
Bauermeister: "What I encouraged our local media here in the Omaha metro area to do is to go pull the 911 tapes. Those are public record. Now as a prosecutor, I hear those 911 tapes.
We’ve got 911 calls where the dog is latched onto the lady's arm for 7 minutes long. Okay, go put your hand in a vice, and leave it there at full pressure, and then put teeth in it for seven minutes. It's a bloody mess."
Browning: "I can only imagine.
Something that I found interesting, again our guest from Council Bluffs, Iowa, Assistant City Attorney Don Bauermeister, had also brought up a website: DogsBite.org.
Take a look at that, because I'm checking it out, and remember our little Amaya Hess? When she was 2-years old, was attacked and she's one of the children that they show as a dog bite victim.
It's really troubling. There is some interesting information. I want to put it like that because I am trying to be fair. Often times as a talk show host that is probably the most difficult thing for me to do because I get an opinion, and I still say: You know what? I have to look at both sides Browning and hopefully, you'll be able to do the same."
We will open up the lines to you though and allow you to weigh in on this. This is still one of those issues that's affecting our community. We've had two pit bull attacks, just within the last couple of days here. Could Indianapolis, let me say it this way: "Should" Indianapolis take a note from Council Bluff's, Iowa and have a ban on pit bulls in Indianapolis?"
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