RUSHVILLE, Neb. — If you own a breed of pit bull and want to move to this northern Panhandle community, your dog won't be welcome. Citing a rash of attacks, City Council members voted unanimously to prohibit pit bulls inside the city limits.
In addition, people who own pit bulls must prove they have sufficient liability insurance to cover a possible attack, according to City Attorney Jamian Simmons. People who owned a pit bull prior to the ordinance must register the dog with the city, and must follow the requirements of the ordinance, which include providing the city clerk with the dog's name, date of birth or age, vaccination record, breed, and color, along with two color photographs of the registered animal in two different poses showing its color and approximate size.
The ordinance, which goes into effect in January, defines pit bulls as several varieties of bull terrier: the Staffordshire bull terrier, American "pit bull" and the American Staffordshire terrier.
It requires all registered pit bulls to be "securely confined indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked pen or kennel, except when leashed and muzzled." All owners are also required to display a sign in a prominent place at their home using the words "Beware of dog — pit bull," and a similar sign must be posted on the kennel or pen of the dog.
Another ordinance establishes a breeder license requirement for households that have four or more dogs older than 12 weeks and a license requirement, fee and regulations.
People who own pit bulls must also provide proof to the city that they have $500,000 worth of liability insurance to cover injury or death of any person or persons, or for damage to property. People convicted of violating the Class III misdemeanor could be fined $50 for the first offense and $100 for subsequent offenses.
Mayor Chris Heiser said some of the problems that prompted the ordinance originated with stray dogs that enter the city from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Although other breeds cause problems, pit bull attacks are often more dangerous, he said.
"In 2009 we had 10 dog bites, and of those only one was from a pit bull," Heiser said. But he added that, due to the strength of their jaws, a pit bull attack can cause much more harm that a bite from a chihuahua.
"We have talked about (making an ordinance) before, and we currently have a vicious dog ordinance. We're just trying to catch up with the times," he said.
Heiser said that during the council meeting a few people opposed the change. He estimated the new ordinance would affect approximately six families.
"We are not making them get rid of their dogs, but we have a problem here with dogs not being licensed and people not keeping their dogs in their yards," he said. "If people want to talk about this issue more, we'll listen, but we felt this issue needed to be addressed."
He added that the nearby city of Gordon has a similar ordinance.
According to DogsBite.org, other Nebraska cities that have banned pit bulls include Auburn, Ceresco, and Minden. Loup City bans pit bulls, rottweilers and Doberman pinschers. Osceola bans pit bulls, chows, Dobermans, rottweilers, American bandogge mastiffs and Neapolitan mastiffs, while Omaha has certain restrictions on pit bulls, including the required use of a leash and muzzle. Beatrice has a vicious dog ordinance, but doesn't specifically ban the ownership of pit bulls.
Scottsbluff City Manager Rick Kuckkahn said the city has had its share of pit bull incidents, and the council has asked the Police Department to segregate those incidents from other breeds in order to monitor pit bull incidents. Kuckkahn said the city does not have breed specific regulations but has a vicious dog ordinance.