In July 2008 Sioux City, Iowa enacted a pit bull ban.
The ban applies to dogs that are 51 percent or more "pit bull," defined in the ordinance as an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or any dog that looks like or has the characteristics of being one of those breeds.
Sioux City Animal Control, managed by private company Hannah, Inc., were charged with enforcing the ordinance. Determination of a dog's breed was left solely to the discretion of the animal control officers and their superiors, none of whom had any training in dog identification or genetics.
How did they know which dogs were 51 or more percent "pit bull?"
"I know it when I see it."
At the time of the ban's passage, a high number of dogs that had been declared vicious or at-risk in the city were said to be "pit bulls" or "pit bull mixes."
Yet a 2015 Siouxland District Health statistic showed that the incidence of dog bites had actually risen since the ban was enacted, from 110 in 2007 to 137 in 2015.
The ordinance targeted dogs that looked a certain way, with no regard for the actual behavior of the dog.
Gentle family dogs were impounded, kenneled in an area designated for vicious dogs, and then ordered out of the city, while high-risk and vicious dog ordinances were enforced inconsistently.
In 2016, three women filed suit in federal district court against the City, the city manager, and the Sioux City Animal Adoption & Rescue Center operator, alleging that the ordinance violates their rights to due process and equal protection, and that no rational basis exists for the ordinance's enactment or existence.
Read the original complaint as it was filed in court here.
After all of the plaintiffs either moved to another town or re-homed their pets to keep them safe, the case was dismissed based on the court's determination that since none of the plaintiffs currently lived in Sioux City, they no longer were subject to the ordinance.
The case was not dismissed on merit.
In fact, the case survived an earlier motion to dismiss! This means the court determined that the evidence pled by the dog owners was persuasive enough for the case to proceed, but thought it had no option except to dismiss when the last of the plaintiffs gave up her dogs to keep them safe and moved from Sioux City. The case is continuing on appeal.
Here on this site you'll find the depositions from the suit, including those of Sioux City Animal Control employees,city employees, and canine behavior and genetics experts which demonstrate in clear, easy to understand language the lack of due process or rationale.
If you are a resident of Sioux City and want to join this lawsuit, please email email@example.com or call 845-868-7559.
When you read the depositions of the Sioux City Animal Control officers and their supervisors, you will know why no dog owner can be confident that animal control won't come for their pet.
The Real Problem
visual identification of mixed breed dogs is highly inaccurate.
Despite how a dog may look on the outside or what their breed or breed mix may be, research reveals that dogs are complex animals influenced by many factors. Looks alone do not dictate behavior.
The enforcement of Sioux City's pit bull ban relies on visual identifications made by untrained Animal Control Officers. In some cases, even when dog owners provided documentation from DNA testing or their vet which contradicted the visual ID, the City upheld the determination.
THE Law is Arbitrarily enforced and unconstitutional.
The people of Sioux City have been relying on the judgement of "experts" who admit they are out-of-date and not adequately trained to make the determinations they do.
While Sioux City Animal Control impounds most dogs they visually identify as "pit bulls," others are left with their owners. In one instance, a local doctor's shepherd mix was released from the pound after attacking several people, because the doctor had friends on city council.
Read the depositions...
BREED BANS Don't make safer communities, but owner accountability does.
In September 2016, Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott said "I am sensitive to how important a pet is to a person, but there's still a lot of data out there that shows that particular [pit bull] breed is somewhat of a problem."
There is no such data. Scientific research has shown that breeds are not a predictor of dangerousness or aggression, and so breed-specific legislation is ineffective. Dangerous dog legislation that applies to individual dangerous dogs is the only rational solution. Read more...
Dear Sioux City,
We understand that our Staffordshire Bull Terrier is banned from residing in Sioux City as per Section 7.10... We also understand that he will not return to the city, unless the breed ban is lifted.
While we understand why this legislation is in place we are deeply saddened that we have to give up our family dog of over 9 years who has never had an incident of being vicious or even threatening toward another person...
To be notified that we must give up our pet for no other reason than a blanket law on "pitbulls" is truly something we never thought we would face... It is extremely unfortunate and heartbreaking to us and to our children to have to give up their dog.
Can you imagine trying to explain this law to a child?!
After doing some research we see that since the ban has been in effect the number of overall dog bites in Sioux City has actually increased (even though the targeted breed has decreased). While everyone tells us nothing can be done, we know that is simply not true... We hope that the law here can change to ban vicious dogs rather than being breed specific.
It is truly unfair for us to have to give up our pet and not be allowed a trial for our dog, proof or an interview.
With tied hands and heavy hearts,
The Frost Family (2016)