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OTTUMWA — An Iowa city is getting set to end its ban on pit bulls within city limits, a ban similar to one in place in Ottumwa.

Monday’s 4-1 vote by Sioux City’s City Council was the first of three expected votes on amending the ordinance, which was adopted in September 2008. City staff there said there has been a move away from ordinances that ban specific breeds toward laws that target behavior.

Ottumwa’s ordinance went into effect in 2004. The ban has been questioned by people who said breed-specific legislation is discriminatory and does not accomplish its goal of protecting the public, but the city has kept it on the books.

Also on Monday, the Iowa chapter of the Humane Society of the United States offered free assistance to cities that currently have bans on dog breeds to craft new behavior-focused ordinances.

City Attorney Joni Keith said she is watching the moves closely, but at this time she has not had the council ask for changes to Ottumwa’s ordinance.

“I do watch that,” she said, “but no one has indicated to me we’re looking at making an adjustment to the ordinance.”

Ottumwa’s ordinance followed the fatal mauling of a child, and another attack by a pit bull in the spring of 2016 left a 10-year-old with serious injuries. Keith called the 2016 incident a “totally unprovoked attack.”

It appeared there would be some clarity for Iowa’s laws in a Des Moines case last fall involving “Pinky,” a pit bull from Polk County. But the Iowa Supreme Court split with three justices on each side. That left the district court’s decision as the final word and the issue unresolved at the state level.

The decision also left Ottumwa without clear guidance on what Iowa’s judiciary would allow. For now, the ordinance remains unchanged.

“There’s no specific plan to change that at this point,” she said. “I did have a young man come into the office, probably the first of last week, asking about putting that back [before the council].”

Matt Milner can be reached at and followed on Twitter @mwmilner


Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

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