Des Moines Man Says He’s Living Proof Why the City Should Get Tougher on Pit Bulls

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DES MOINES, Iowa — As Sioux City city leaders approved the second reading of an ordinance to potentially lift a ban on dogs with more than 50 percent pit bull DNA, Mike Hagar from Des Moines says his battle scars are proof for why Des Moines should not follow.

“We`ve been attacked by two different pit bulls three times in this neighborhood,” said Hagar.

Last Oct. 30, two dogs Hagar describes as pit bull attacked him and his dog Blue outside of his home.  Hagar says he was forced to run inside to grab his pistol and shoot one of them to death.  Blue later died from his injuries. Hagar said, “This dog was more lethal than a handgun.  That`s what it took to put him down. He was a monster and it was scary.”

It is legal in Des Moines to own pit bulls, but breed-specific legislation requires owners to carry insurance of $100,000, have a leash no longer than six feet and be over the age of 18 while handling them on walks. These are restrictions that Tom Colvin of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa hopes Des Moines eliminates.

“We have advocated for a long time not to have breed-specific languages in ordinances because we don`t believe it really accomplishes anything,” Colvin said.

Des Moines city code specifically names three similar breeds of dogs as high risk. Those breeds are Staffordshire terrier, American Pit Bull terrier and American Staffordshire terrier and any dog that appears predominantly one of those breeds. “It`s virtually impossible to tell whether a dog is a boxer mix or an American Bulldog mix or a pit bull mix, so how are you even making the determination whether a dog that might be involved in a bite is actually a pit bull,” said Colvin.

Hagar agrees the laws don`t accomplish much, but he wants them stricter.  He said, “The owner of the dog that killed my dog, he just got a ticket for dogs on the loose.”

The ARL says as of 2019, 21 states have prohibited all breed-specific legislation like what exists for pit bulls in Des Moines.  Hagar feels like he`s a walking example of why cities and states should be more than cautious.  “I’m having nightmares still.  I`m on medication still. It`s going to be a year on [October 30] of this month and I`m still not back to normal,” Hagar said.

According to the ARL of Iowa, out of 18 Des Moines metro cities, only Des Moines, Pleasant Hill and Granger have breed-specific legislation. The Sioux City City Council’s final reading on lifting the pit bull ban is scheduled for Nov. 4.

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