The Brecht family plays with the family dog, Zero, in their yard in Keystone in August. MaKinzie Brecht told Keystone City Council that breed-specific ordinances unfairly target pit bulls. (Bailey Cichon / The Gazette)
KEYSTONE — After weeks of confusion and uncertainty, some Keystone dog owners have received written notices to remove their “pit bulls” from the city.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office served written notices to dog owners Friday ahead of the holiday weekend. Keystone County and City have breed-specific ordinances banning pit bulls.
Keystone resident and pit bull owner MaKinzie Brecht said she and a few other residents received official notices from the town of Keystone and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m just appalled at the city’s reaction. They won’t even talk to us. said Brecht. “We cannot reach anyone to discuss the matter or anything.”
Brecht said the Keystone dog owners have collectively hired an attorney to deal with this situation moving forward.
The notice states that if the owner “fails to remove the dog as instructed and within the prescribed time” of three days, “the City of Keystone will take the necessary action to remove said animal from the city limits.”
The notice states that the persons served have two days to appeal after receiving the notice. The notices arrived Friday afternoon before a bank holiday weekend.
Besides the forced removal of the dog, any owner who does not remove their pet would also be fined $750.
Brecht said her dog is registered as an emotional support animal, which she hopes will save her pet.
In July, pit bull owners in this small Benton County town received a verbal warning of a dog ban within the city limits. In addition to the city ordinance, Benton County has its own ordinance that prohibits pit bulls but also other dogs that have the “characteristics” of pit bulls.
The warnings came after a 2-year-old girl was attacked on June 18 by a “stray or abandoned pit bull-style dog” in Keystone. The girl was taken to hospital and her father contacted the authorities. Law enforcement took the dog to a veterinary clinic in Belle Plaine. The dog’s owner was never identified and the animal was euthanized.
Humane Society state director Preston Moore said it’s disappointing the city has taken this step.
“A Friday afternoon leading to a bank holiday weekend, no less. My heart aches for these families,” Moore said.
Moore had offered to work with the city to draft new ordinances as he has done for other Iowa cities that have repealed breed-specific bans.
“I unfortunately did not have the opportunity to speak about our proposals,” added Moore. “But we remain committed to helping Keystone and other communities implement common sense animal policies.”
Last month, dog owners and other residents pleaded with Keystone City Council to repeal the breed ban ordinance.
“We’re going to look at that and discuss it in more detail and that will be on a later agenda,” Mayor Mark Andresen said during the meeting. “After further discussion we’ll talk about it and get back to you, I guess that’s all we can do now.”
Brecht said she had no further discussions with city officials before receiving the notice.
No Keystone city official could be reached for comment Friday afternoon before publication. The town hall was closed when the summonses were served.
The verbal warnings issued in July came after a sheriff’s deputy received a list of addresses from the city.
Sheriff Ron Tippett told The Gazette in August that the office gave residents no formal notice, just a “verbal warning” reminding them of the ordinance. He said there were no plans to remove the dogs, although residents who received the warnings said they had between seven and 10 days to comply.
Tippett did not respond to a phone call Friday before publication.
Breed-specific legislation has been rejected by many groups, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Bar Association, National Animal Control Association, American Kennel Club, Association of Professional Dog Trainers, National Canine Research Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Iowa, dozens of cities have breed-specific bans like Keystone. They include Belle Plaine, Cascade, Centerville, Columbus Junction, Council Bluffs, Monticello, Ottumwa, Vinton, Walcott, Waukon, and Winterset among other small towns.
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