State lawmaker to seek ban on pit bull breed
A recent attack on a 3-year-old child in Moore has been the catalyst for at least one Oklahoma representative to attempt to ban pit bull dogs in the state of Oklahoma.The June attack that left 3-year-old Cody Yelton with only one arm prompted Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, to announce that in the next legislative session he will introduce a bill to get rid of the pit bull.In researching the topic, Wesselhoft says he has reviewed over a thousand articles and legal cases related to pit bull attacks, which often end in death or mutilation of the victims."Many people who own pit bulls say that it's other owners who train their pit bulls to be vicious - that there aren't bad pit bulls, just bad pit bull owners," Wesselhoft said. "But the fact is that these dogs are bred to fight until their prey is killed."
Long before he became a legislator, Wesselhoft says he noticed news stories from around the country detailing how pit bull terriers had attacked and mauled people of all ages, including young children.But when a pit bull attacked the 3-year-old who was supposedly trying to pet the animal, Wesselhoft believed the time had come to take action."Each time I read about one of these attacks or see the story on TV, I tell my wife Judy, 'That dog ought to be outlawed,'" Wesselhoft said. "Now that it's happened to one of my constituents, I've got to do this."I've talked to Cody's parents and his grandparents. Cody's grandmother told me that, after the attack, his arm looked like a chicken leg with all the meat eaten off. And that little three-year-old boy's arm had to be amputated all the way up to his shoulder."According to data compiled by the Oklahoma City Animal Welfare Division, pit bulls and pit-type mixes accounted for approximately 15 percent of all dog bites within the corporate limits of Oklahoma City from 2001 to 2004.
Wesselhoft said his bill will amend existing state law, which outlines regulations for any "potentially dangerous dog," meaning any dog that has inflicted damage to any person, animal, or other property when unprovoked.Wesselhoft said the primary goal of his bill will be to require anyone who owns a pit bull terrier to house the animal in a structure that is "solid and impenetrable by a child."Pit bull owners would have to keep their dogs behind an 8-foot-high fence that also extends at least one foot into the ground, in order to prevent the dogs from digging out. Each owner would also need to display a sign reading "pit bull dog" on their property.But Wesselhoft said the proposed bill will also include provisions designed to bring about an eventual ban of pit bull dogs in the state.The grandfather clause contained in the bill would allow for the continuing existence of pit bulls currently in Oklahoma. However, pit bull owners would have to have the dogs spayed or neutered, and the animals would need regular rabies shots.In addition, a pit bull owner would have to be age 21 or older and would be required to have a $100,000 liability insurance policy on every pit bull.Also, each pit bull would have to be tattooed or otherwise marked when it is registered with the state. Owners would not be able to sell or transfer the dogs to other individuals in Oklahoma, excluding family members. And a person living in Oklahoma will not be able to bring in a new pit bull from out of state.After those pit bulls that are allowed to remain in Oklahoma under the grandfather clause of the proposed bill die of old age, Wesselhoft said there should be very few pit bulls remaining in the state, if any."The bottom line is that, by getting rid of pit bulls in Oklahoma, we will be making our state safer for all Oklahomans, in particular our children and the elderly," he said. "The attack on little Cody Yelton was absolutely tragic, and we don't want that to happen again."Wesselhoft added that the parents of Cody Yelton were pleased when they learned that the proposed legislation would be named in honor of their son.
"At this point we're going full force with it," Wesseloft told the E-E Friday. "The legislative session starts in January Š Right now we're trying to gain support from my colleagues and more and more are getting on board with the bill."Wesselhoft says that the recent spate of attacks which include several in the Bartlesville area are either "a cluster of pit bull attacks" or "that they have been happening all along and the media was not sensitive to it.""With the legislation in motion, we're starting to get calls and e-mails on the matter," he said.Wesselhoft said that that although the bill is "controversial" he is "optimistic that I can get this passed.""The attacks in Bartlesville are going to effect legislators in your area," he said. "Unfortunately, we don't want attacks to occur but each time it just gives the bill more steam."Regarding people who say that the attacks are the result of bad owners, Wesselhoft said that often times pit bull enthusiasts say that it is never the dog's fault, but "never want to admit that there is something wrong with this breed."The bottom line is that the pit bull is unpredictable," he said. "They are nice warm pets until something going off in their brain and then they are a lethal weapon trying to tear out skin and crush bone."Wesselhoft said he feels that even if the bill does not pass in its entirety, he thinks it could help cities like Bartlesville."If my bill passes, even if I'm not able to ban the breed statewide, then cities like Bartlesville will have the autonomy and the authority to do what they have to do," he said.