During a luncheon Tuesday, Springfield City Council heard from Springfield-Greene County Health Department director, Clay Goddard, about universal licensure where all dogs would be required to be licensed.
Goddard said, if council decides to repeal the recently passed breed specific legislation (BSL) concerning pit bulls or if the ordinance goes to the public next August and is repealed, this would be one option for addressing the problem. A referendum petition was recently certified, which halted enactment of the BSL.
A result of universal licensure, he said, is an increased number of dogs getting spayed or neutered. That would result in fewer dog bites, according to Goddard.
"You're never going to totally eliminate dog bites," he said, "it's just not realistic. But you can reduce them and reduce your number of dogs that are running loose, and that would be the goal of this type of approach. It is thinking upstream and it's thinking about prevention rather than reacting."
While he acknowledges the city would be lucky to have 25 percent compliance, he still feels universal licensure would be “a valuable enforcement tool.”
Goddard feels focusing on all dogs rather than singling out certain breeds “is the better approach,” but there are cities in Missouri that have both breed specific legislation and universal licensure.
According to Goddard, 41 cities in the state have universal licensure, including Ozark and Nixa. Springfield used to have universal licensure, but it was repealed in 1978.
He said, whether or not the recent breed specific legislation is repealed, current pit bull requirements will still exist, including muzzling, signage and spaying and neutering.
Goddard said something needs to be done to lighten the load of the six field officers currently working in animal control in Greene County. He said animal control was in "crisis mode" earlier this fall as three of the six officers were on light duty after suffering injuries on the job. Ideally, he said, the county should have ten field officers.