Leawood residents will have chance to weigh in on city’s pit bull ban

Leawood pit bull ban

Over the next 10 weeks, a sample of Leawood residents will have the chance to weigh in on the city's dangerous animal ordinance banning pit bulls. Above, Leawood resident Bob Brettell's pit bull Lucy. File image.

Following several weeks of discussion, a divided Leawood City Council voted Monday to approve conducting a community-wide survey that asks residents to weigh in on the city’s current dangerous animals ordinance, which bans pit bulls.

Why it matters: Leawood is the last Johnson County city currently with a pit bull ban still in place.

  • Leawood became the last Johnson County municipality to have such an ordinance after Overland Park repealed its pit bull ban last fall, following a trend of other Johnson County and Kansas City metro cities doing the same in recent years.

How it got here: Conversations about a potential citywide survey over Leawood’s pit bull ban first began in July.

  • At the time, Leawood resident Bob Brettell asked the council to hold a public forum on the topic, arguing that “breed-specific legislation” that bans certain dogs, like pit bulls, does more harm than good.
  • The city council then directed city staff to come up with options for what a potential survey could look like, which the council later reviewed in August.
  • Options presented in August included surveys through Survey Monkey, Google Forms, Polco and ETC — the latter of which would cost the city from $8,100 to $11,500, while the first two options would be free.
Leawood pit bull ban
Above, a Leawood resident’s pit bull, Lucy. Photo by Lucie Krisman.

Details: City Clerk Stephen Powell told the council this week that the city has chosen marketing company ETC to conduct the community survey.

  • The paper survey will include 3 to 5 questions — as well as a cover summary providing background on the ordinance and recent city discussions on it.
  • A sample of 2,500 randomly selected Leawood households will receive the survey in their mail, and one resident per household can fill it out.
  • The original proposal included an online component to the survey, but the council ultimately voted to only include the first 400 responses to the mailed survey — which is considered a “statistically valid” response by ETC.
  • Conducting the survey will cost the city $11,500.

Discussion: Some councilmembers had remaining concerns that the survey might not be worth the money and time spent if residents largely did not have opinions on the ban.

  • “I can’t justify spending this kind of staff time and resources on a topic that actually doesn’t seem to concern more than a couple of our residents,” said Councilmember Lisa Harrison. “I keep waiting for the day when I’m going to have dozens of emails about this topic, and it hasn’t happened.”
  • Other councilmembers argued that community consensus is an important factor in deciding what to do about the ordinance, noting that Leawood is an “outlier” in relation to other Johnson County municipalities when it comes to dangerous animal ordinances.
  • “It’s important to me to know what our citizens think about breed specific ordinances,” said Councilmember Mary Larson. “And if we are to proceed with this statistically valid survey, I think it’s very important that the council and city-elected leadership keeps an arm’s length distance from influencing any questions or the cover letter.”

Final vote: The city council split 4-4 on the matter, and Mayor Peggy Dunn broke the tie.

  • “Yes” votes included Councilmembers Jim Rawlings, Debra Filla, Chuck Sipple and Mary Larson, along with Dunn’s tie-breaking vote.
  • “No” votes included Councilmembers Lisa Harrison, Andrew Osman, Julie Cain and James Azeltine

What happens next with pit bull ban survey

  • The city will conduct the survey over the next two to three months with a final report expected to be presented to the council at the end of November.