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Petition started to reverse pit bull ban in Devils Lake

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. - Dog lovers in Devils Lake have started a petition to overturn the city's decades-old ban on pit bulls.Pretty Paws, a pet grooming business at 406 Fifth St. N.E., will play host to the petition. The petition needs 444 signature...

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DEVILS LAKE, N.D. - Dog lovers in Devils Lake have started a petition to overturn the city's decades-old ban on pit bulls.

Pretty Paws, a pet grooming business at 406 Fifth St. N.E., will play host to the petition. The petition needs 444 signatures - 15 percent of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election-from Devils Lake residents who live within city limits to be placed to a public vote.

"I don't believe any dog should be subjected to not having a home because of their breed," Pretty Paws owner Daisha Azure said. "I don't think a dog should have to hide or owners should have to hide their dogs."

Devils Lake's pit bull ban has been in place since 1987, meaning anyone who has a dog that falls under a pit bull breed or mix could face up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The City Commission revisited the ban at the request of Amanda McDonough, who told commissioners she wants to adopt a pit bull as a companion for her first dog but can't because she lives within city limits. Her family owned a pit bull mix when she was young, adding it was the sweetest dog.

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"There is such a misconception," she said. "All of the pit bulls I've ever met around here and, generally speaking in my life, have been some of the sweetest dogs."

Despite language on the books that already addresses dangerous animals, the commission in November voted 3-2 to uphold the ban, citing concerns from residents who fear a pit bull may hurt someone.

McDonough, who launched the petition, said she thought the city would repeal the ordinance based on previous meetings.

"I was really shocked," she said of the final vote.

Azure said she never has owned a pit bull, but in the 17 years she has groomed animals, she has never had any problems when she handled a pit bull. People have brought concerns to her about pit bulls, but she and McDonough both said those who fear the breeds described as pit bulls need to look at the whole picture, research valid information and realize animals are not dangerous because of their breeds but rather because of how they are trained.

"I can honestly say I have never had a bad experience," she said. "Go talk to somebody (who knows about pit bulls). ... Go out to the (Grand Forks Circle of Friends) Humane Society and look at the pit bulls they have. They are not aggressive.

"Most of the time you are being told something about a breed that is not true, and that's where the fear comes in," she said.

Pretty Paws is the only place where signatures are being collected because the petitioners want to make sure it is done right, Azure said.

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"I can make sure that they are reading the information pack before they sign it," she said. "I can look at their ID and make sure they are within city limits."

If the petitioners gather enough signatures, the commission would have two options: pass an ordinance with unaltered language from the petition within 20 days of the document receiving certified approval from the city's auditor or call a special election. If the voters approve the ordinance, it would become law and could not be repealed or amended except by a vote of the people.

There is no time limit on how long the petitioners have to collect signatures, City Administrator Terry Johnston said.

McDonough is optimistic enough people will sign the petition. Meanwhile, she and other advocates are trying to educate residents in Devils Lake on the misconceptions of pit bulls and explain that the owner is responsible for a pet's actions.

"There are a lot of people who said they wanted to sign it, so it's merely just a matter of getting word out that the petition is ready," she said.

For more information or to find out how to sign the petition, call Pretty Paws at (701) 381-8968.

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