Keota Pit Bull Ban Challenged in Federal Court


Keota City Hall
By: 
Charlie Comfort
Publisher

KEOTA – City of Keota has been named in a lawsuit, as well as Tony Cansler, in his official capacity as Mayor; as well as Doug Conrad, in his official capacity as Police Chief, seeking to overturn the City’s ban on dangerous animals. The lawsuit, which was filed in the United State District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, was initiated by Laci Droll, a Keota homeowner who recently was forced to relocate her dog outside of Keota city limits, due to provisions of the ordinance. Lawsuit alleges Droll’s due process and equal protection rights under the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution have been violated by the city enforcing its’ ban on dangerous animals.

City of Keota presently has a been on dangerous animals, which prohibits any resident from keeping any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, “or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more of the above breeds (more so than any other breed), or any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club for any of the above breeds”. According to Keota City Officials, the ban has been in place for many years, ever since a Keota resident was seriously wounded in a pit bull attack.

Droll’s lawsuit challenges the city’s ordinance on the grounds that the ordinance, specifically the section pertaining to a dog displaying traits of a pit bull, is unconstitutionally vague. “The Pit Bull Ban’s identification of the animals subject to the ban are overly vague and lack sufficient definiteness and specificity to inform those who may be subject to the law to avoid violating the law or to provide persons of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what specific animals are prohibited by the Pit Bull Ban,” states the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Droll first became aware of the Pit Bull Ban after she had moved back to the community and purchased a home. At the time, Droll had two dogs, both from shelters and of unknown genetic origin, according to the lawsuit. After living in the community for several months, Droll found out the City has a Pit Bull Ban, according to the lawsuit, and met with the City Council in May 2019 to object to the ban. The lawsuit further alleges that in January 2020, after meeting with the Humane Society and considering a breed-neutral dangerous dog ordinance, the Council unanimously voted to uphold the existing ordinance. A letter would be issued to Droll on Jan. 9, notifying her that she would need to remove both of her dogs from the community within 60 days.

Since that time, one of her dogs has passed, however Droll still has one dog, Gypsy, that is subject to the ordinance. According to the lawsuit, Droll did not remove her dugs until after she became aware that the City would seek to enforce the dangerous dog ordinance against her. “To save Gypsy from confiscation and impoundment, Droll began temporarily boarding Gypsy at a facility outside of town on March 9, 2020,” the lawsuit states.

After being visited by Police Chief Doug Conrad, Droll informed him that Gypsy had been relocated outside of town. Conrad informed her at that time, according to the lawsuit, that he would continue coming by Droll’s house to ensure that she was still in compliance with the city’s ordinance.

The lawsuit alleges that it is impossible to visually identify a breed of a dog, rendering portions of the City’s ban unconstitutional.

“Scientific studies have determined that even people with training in identifying dog breeds are wrong more often than not in determining the primary breed of a mixed-breed dog based on visual analysis when compared to the animal’s actual primary breed composition as determined by DNA testing,” the lawsuit states.

Droll is requesting that the Court declare that the ban violates the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution and furthermore declare that the ban cannot be enforced by the City. Droll is also asking that the Court issue a temporary restraining order, not allowing the City to enforce the ban while any litigation pertaining to the ban is pending.

A hearing on the lawsuit has not yet been set.

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