Ypsilanti Township considers extending mandatory pit bull sterilization ordinance
The number of pit bulls euthanized and brought in to the Humane Society of Huron Valley from Ypsilanti Township has been cut roughly in half over the last two years. Ypsilanti Township and Humane Society staff say that is a direct result of an ordinance put in place in 2010 requiring pit bull owners to sterilize their dogs.
Now, township staff and the HSHV are asking the Board of Trustees to make that ordinance permanent. The board approved a first reading of the ordinance at their regular November meeting and will consider a second reading in January.
In October 2010, the board approved the ordinance with a two-year sunset clause that would allow officials to assess its effectiveness before extending it.
“The trends are moving in the right direction, and this now-proven strategy should be continued into the future in order to realize its full potential,” Mike Radzik, director of the township’s office of community standards, wrote in a letter to the board.
Township and Humane Society staff highlighted evidence they say demonstrates the ordinance has reduced the number of pit bulls euthanized, reduced the number of the breed taken into the facility and controlled its population.
So far, more than 700 pit bulls have been sterilized for free through a grant awarded to the HSHV from PetSmart, and the program has enough funds left to sterilize another 150.
In 2011, as the law went into effect, 237 pit bulls were brought into the Humane Society. That number has dropped to 113 through the end of October and is projected to rise to 135 by the end of the year.
Euthanasia of pit bulls dropped from a peak of 139 dogs in 2009 to 103 in 2011 and 56 through the end of October. Officials are projecting putting down 58 pit bulls total in 2012.
Jenny Paillon, director of operations at the HSHV, said there is an overpopulation of pit bulls in Washtenaw County, and the bulk are in Ypsilanti Township. More pit bulls enter the shelter than any other breed, she said, and they are also the breed most often picked up as strays, involved in cruelty cases and euthanized.
Paillon said pit bulls brought to the shelter are often emaciated, untrained and under-socialized.
“We do everything in our power to provide needed medical treatment and behavioral rehabilitation in order to make them adoptable—a costly and time-intensive task that unfortunately does not always have a happy ending,” Paillon said. “But increasingly it does as we see the tide of pit bulls beginning to stem with the help of this progressive ordinance by animal-loving, forward-thinking officials in Ypsilanti Township.”
The chances of pit bulls leaving the shelter alive have increased from 40 percent to 60 percent over the last two years.
According to Humane Society statistics, pit bulls accounted for 36 percent of the dogs euthanized in 2006, down from 50 percent in 2010.
In 2010, Ypsilanti Township accounted for nearly 50 percent of the shelter’s pit bull intake, while 11.2 percent came from the City of Ypsilanti and 7.4 percent from Ann Arbor.
“The focus on Ypsilanti Township stems from our statistics that half of the pits coming to us from the community were living in this municipality,” Paillon said. “Ypsilanti Township was open and willing to discuss solutions to being able to have a healthy and manageable community for dogs, thereby alleviating this epidemic of needless abuse and overpopulation without further hurting the breed.”
At the time the ordinance was passed, staff said they were hopeful it would also reduce the number of pit bulls involved in attacks and have an impact on backyard fighting, though that wasn’t the ordinance’s purpose.
The township board approved the legislation by a vote of 5-1, with trustee Mike Martin voting against it. He contended that the main problems surrounding pit bulls — backyard breeders, dog fighting, irresponsible owners and aggressive dogs — were not addressed in the ordinance.
Martin acknowledged there has been some progress in controlling the pit bull population but said there should be an ordinance that doesn’t single out the breed and applies to all animals. Feral cats, for instance, are a huge problem in Ypsilanti Township, he said.
“There needs to be a more extensive program to control the animal population and improve their welfare in township,” Martin said. “But we’ve made significant improvements and are heading in the right direction.”
Because a pit bull isn’t technically a breed of dog, the ordinance defines it as Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers or any mix breed exhibiting five out of eight physical characteristics defined in the ordinance.
Residents who violate the law face criminal misdemeanor charges punishable by up to a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail.