Thursday, June 24, 2010

City Code Costs Family Its Dog

By Whitney Gibbons, ABC 5 News

Another dog in the metro will be euthanized tomorrow because of a misunderstanding over a Des Moines city code. Pit bulls in Des Moines are considered a vicious breed, even if they've never bitten anyone. Owners have to follow certain rules, or their dog will be put down.  
Three year old Tyler Fritz is wondering where his dog Smokey went.
"Give me my doggy back," he said as he looked at a picture of Smokey. His mom Jessica is finding it hard to tell Tyler where what happened to Smokey.  He will be put down tomorrow because her family didn't follow a city code.
"He's just a total family dog," Jessica said. They've had Smokey since he was a puppy.  He's now almost five years old.
Jessica and her family didn't understand Des Moines vicious breed code. Under the law, breeds like pit bulls need to be licensed, have a rabies tag, plus the owner needs proof of $100,000 of insurance. The dog also has to be on a leash at all times or in a special confined space if it's outside. If an owner is caught not following this law two times, the dog will be put down.
Jessica says Smokey's never hurt a soul, but he was caught loose two times and she doesn't have insurance. So he's going to be put down.
 "It should be this dog attacked somebody so we are going to euthanize it," Jessica said.  "It shouldn't be the dog was sitting on a balcony relaxing, playing with his family; we are going to euthanize him."
Cindy Holliday agrees with Jessica. She's the director of the citizen group ADAPT4DSM. They teach owners to be more responsible and are working to change current laws.
 "It's not fair to that dog to be put to sleep because the owners were irresponsible," Cindy said.
Jessica wants the code to change and warns other people to pay attention to their city code. She doesn't want this happen to another family.
"Me and my husband have this on our shoulders. We are the reason our dog's not here today."
It's important to note that every city has a different vicious breed code. So you need to check with your city to make sure you're following the right rules.

Update July 26, 2010 4:58pm - The following article is by Whitney Givens, ABC 5 News:
Change in DSM Vicious Breed Ordinance

Monday night, the Des Moines City Council voted to change the city's vicious breed ordinance.
Under the old law, a pit bull is automatically considered vicious, even if it has never hurt anyone.  Owners must have insurance and the dog always has to be on a leash or in a special confined space.  If the owner is caught violating the ordinance twice, the dog will be put down.
Under the amendment, a dog that's vicious by breed won't be put down.  Instead, the Animal Rescue League will determine if it can be adopted.
This ordinance got a lot of attention because of the Fritz family and their dog Smokey. They didn't follow the ordinance, but fought to keep Smokey alive.
It's been a long month for Jessica Fritz and her family without their dog Smokey.
"Terrible, my kids still say Smokey's in heaven because from the beginning they told me I have no other option but euthanizing, that's it," said Smokey's owner Jessica Fritz.
Smokey was taken from their home after they were caught not following the ordinance. But Jessica and her family didn't want that him to be put down.
They went across Des Moines and got 300 people to sign a petition saying this law isn't fair. Then they put up flyers in as many stores as they could. The Fritz's want as many people to hear their story as possible.
"The more people we got involved the bigger it got and the more people are talking about it. We has actually soldiers that are in Afghanistan calling," said Fritz.
They told everyone to call the city council and let them know they want this ordinance changed.
Right now Smokey is still at the Animal Rescue League and is fine. He was going to be euthanized, but the city council put that on hold until they could look at this law.
"Either way I'm glad that he's not going to be put to sleep, hopefully he can make someone else happy, but I mean I really want him back," said Jessica's husband Shawn Fritz.
"At least I know that I saved his life, or we all did, it wasn't just me," said Jessica.
Smokey will now be evaluated and the ARL will decide who adopts him.  But Smokey's owners won't get him back.  Under the amendment old owners and people who live with them can't adopt the dog.  If somehow the dog ends up back in that home, it will be seized and euthanized.

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