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Army bars some dog breeds

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Posted: Sunday, March 15, 2009 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:16 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

Two months after Fort Hood officials banned pit bulls in on-post housing, the U.S. Army standardized its pet policy, barring pit breeds like American Staffordshire bull terriers and English Staffordshire bull terriers.

The Army-wide ban also included Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, chows, wolf hybrids and any others that display a dominant or aggressive behavior, according to information from Actus Lend Lease, Fort Hood's privatized family housing contractor.

Actus Lend Lease took over family housing at Fort Hood in 2001 under the Residential Communities Initiative.

Army officials asked RCI partners to standardize the pet policy late last year because some pet owners were encountering uneven policies when moving from installation to installation, said Dave Foster, an Army spokesman.

A plan was developed in December and disseminated to installations in January, but has not been implemented at Fort Hood yet, said Mack Quinney, Actus Lend Lease project director. The policy is currently being incorporated into the post's community standards regulations.

Those who comply with the current policy will be grandfathered in, Quinney said, and new residents who move on Fort Hood or into privatized housing at any other installation will be subject to the new policy.

Existing residents must register their pets with Fort Hood's Veterinary Services by a yet-to-be-agreed-upon deadline, said Michael G. Nix, acting chief of the Department of Public Works' Housing Division. That date will be published once the revised community standards regulation is approved, and the policy will be fully implemented six weeks after that.

Privatized housing companies are working on points of contact in each region or installation to answer questions related to the pet policy, Foster said. Fort Hood veterinarians would determine whether a dog falls under the banned list if it was called into question, Quinney said.

The Herald reported in September that pet owners who registered those breeds with the Fort Hood Veterinary Clinic before July 10, 2008, were allowed to keep their dogs. Newly acquired pit bulls and their crosses are prohibited from staying in on-post housing, according to Fort Hood Regulations 210-48 and 40-5.

"This policy will reduce (the) number of potentially dangerous dogs on post," Chris Zimmer of the post's Department of Emergency Services said in September. "It will create a safer environment in Fort Hood housing areas and will likely reduce (the) number of dog bites on post in the future."

Officials began examining the breeds following a fatal pit bull attack of an 11-year-old Killeen boy in November 2007. The boy and his younger brother were running through their home one evening when the dog jumped from the couch, knocked the boy to the ground and bit him on the neck, according to a Herald report.

The boy's family released the dog to the Killeen Animal Shelter and requested the dog be euthanized.

Local communities have examined ways to regulate the breeds, but Texas law states that counties or municipalities can't place restrictions specific to one type of breed, Kathryn H. Davis, Killeen city attorney, said in September. Fort Hood is a federal installation and doesn't have to abide by state laws.

Post officials found that in the last six years, 68 percent of the dogs declared dangerous were pit bulls, said Lt. Col. Peter Lydon, Fort Hood's then-provost marshal. Rottweilers trailed far behind in second place at 8 percent.

A dog may be declared dangerous after it bites a person or other animal. Animal control officers conduct an investigation and that case goes before the garrison commander, Lydon said.

When an animal is determined to be dangerous, the owner must remove the animal from the installation, Zimmer said. The post already had a ban on hybrids or crosses with wolves, coyotes or jackals, he said.

Officials stressed in September that of all Army installations, Fort Hood had the least-restrictive breed policies, said Zimmer and Lydon. Some posts include bans on more breeds, require owners to take out large insurance policies or require special training.

Officials decided to enact an all-out ban on the two breeds, in part, because it would ultimately be less costly to soldiers and their families, Lydon said.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547.

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