Georgia bill to prohibit breed discriminatory laws moves forward

A bill that was introduced in the Georgia state legislature would prohibit breed discriminatory laws on the state level.

SB 184 is a relatively simple bill.  It would amend the current dangerous dog law to include the following language:

“Notwithstanding the provisions of Code Section 4-8-1, no county, municipality, or local 12 authority shall adopt any ordinance or resolution for the regulation of domestic dogs that 13 classifies based on breed.

Most importantly, the bill expressly includes language that would repeal all existing breed discriminatory laws.

Last week, SB 184 cleared the Senate and moved on to the House.  The vote of 42-11 was a decisive victory for the bill.  SB 184 has been assigned to the House Government Affairs committee.

There is a companion bill in the House, HB 124.  This bill is identical in its language to SB 184.  This bill has cleared the second reading and is moving to the Senate side.  The fact that these bills have cleared the sides of the legislature that they started on is a very good sign.  There is support for the end of breed discriminatory laws on both sides.

The passage of these bills would be a huge step.  We do not see a lot of southern states taking on the issue of breed discriminatory laws and BDL seems to be more common in the south than in the north and west percentage wise.  Not only would this bill protect the rights of residents, it would also have a huge impact on the surrounding states and open the door to consideration of similar bills in the surrounding area.

GEORGIA RESIDENTS:  It is imperative that you continue to reach out to express support for this bill.  Take the time to write your Representative a note of support for SB 184.  A list of members of the House can be found here: http://www.house.ga.gov/Representatives/en-US/HouseMembersList.aspx

You can find your specific Representative here: http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

The contact information for the House Government affairs committee is as follows:
Rep. Ed Rynders, Chair:  ed.rynders@house.ga.gov
Rep. Buzz Brockway,: buzz.brockway@house.ga.gov
Rep. Tyrone Brooks:  tyrone.brooks@house.ga.gov
Rep. Barry Fleming: barry.fleming@house.ga.gov
Rep. Hugh Floyd:  hugh.floyd@house.ga.gov
Rep. Mark Hamilton:  mark.hamilton@house.ga.gov
Rep. Dustin Hightower: dustin.hightower@house.ga.gov
Rep. Rusty Kidd:  rusty.kidd@house.ga.gov
Rep. Eddie Lumsden: eddie.lumsden@house.ga.gov
Rep. John Meadows:  john.meadows@house.ga.gov
Rep. Howard Mosby:  howard.mosby@house.ga.gov
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver: mary.oliver@house.ga.gov
Rep. Larry O’Neal:  larry.oneal@house.ga.gov
Rep. Alan Powell:  alan.powell@house.ga.gov
Rep. Jay Powell:  jay.powell@house.ga.gov
Rep. Tom Taylor:  tom.taylor@house.ga.gov
Rep. Darlene K. Taylor:  darlene.taylor@house.ga.gov
Rep. Bruce Williamson: bruce.williamson@house.ga.gov

Platteville, WI discussing possible pit bull ban

Tuesday night, the Plateville common council discussed changes to their dangerous dog laws.

Among the possible changes discussed is a ban on “pit bulls.”

The proposal would make it

 “unlawful to own, harbor or keep any animal which:…are pure bred commonly known as put bull, pit bull dog, or pit bull terrier and/or includes a mixed breed of any of the following:…
A.  the pit bull terrier breed of dog
B.  the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed of dog
C.  the American Pit Bull Terrier breed of dog
D.  the American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog”

 

There is nothing that says how this would be implemented, how dogs will be identified or how a person can contest the determination of being banned.  In fact, there is no due process at all.

Also, the proposal is listed as having no fiscal impact and requiring no budget increase.  The Best Friends Animal Society fiscal impact calculator lists the estimated annual cost at over $16,000.  This calculator has been tested against actual cost of implementation in places with breed discriminatory laws and has been shown repeatedly to be extremely accurate.

The discussion comes after an attack on a Chihuahua by two dogs identified as  pit bulls.  The dogs owner was not cited, though the dogs seem to have been removed from the community at this time.

The idea to ban “pit bulls” from Platteville was raised by Alderman Mike Denn.  Whether this is at the request of the resident whose dog was attacked is unknown.

At the meeting this Tuesday, several people signed up to speak in opposition to a breed discriminatory law.

The proposed changes also extend police power in an alarming way.  It would allow officers to kill a dog that has been found roaming if they determine the dog is of “vicious character.”  There is no information about due process or how this “vicious character” is going to be determined.

There is some potential good in the proposal.  It would outline the proper care of animals and outlaw mistreatment of dogs to be made illegal.  It would prevent people from keeping dogs without shelter or with inadequate shelter.  It also clarifies some of the breed neutral dangerous dog language.  This is very positive but there are many flaws in the proposal.

The proposal has been sent to the Freudenreich Animal Care Trust Fund Committee for further study.

There is no denying that there is an issue with loose dogs.  How prevalent this issue is, is unclear.  Stepped up enforcement of existing ordinances, and actually legally holding people responsible for the actions of their dogs would be one place to start.  The owners of the dogs that are responsible for any attack should be held responsible in some way, either criminally or civilly, with due process protections.  Further, people who are not managing their dogs properly in the community should be held responsible before an incident even happens.  Stringent enforcement of leash laws, licensing (if the town does so) and other basic breed neutral ways go a long way to preventing issues in the first place. It is very likely that this was not the first time these particular dogs were out loose and there should never be a second time.

Breed discriminatory laws invariably contain a wealth of due process and constitutional violations by their very nature and are expensive and difficult to enforce.  More and more, we are seeing people stepping up to challenge them legally and the breed discriminatory laws being over turned.  More pertinent, is that more and more towns are repealing their old breed discriminatory laws because they have found them to be completely ineffective in making the community safer.

Platteville residents and others in the community are encouraged to respectfully reach out to officials to oppose the implementation of any breed discriminatory law.  Residents and locals should also reach out to Wisconsin Voters for Companions Animals, one of our partner organizations, if they are looking for a way to get involved but aren’t sure were to begin.  They can be contacted via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wivoters or via e-mail  wivotersforcompanionanimals@gmail.com.

Two repeals from Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Two cities voted to repeal their breed discriminatory laws during city council meetings on Tuesday, March 10, 2015.

Juneau, WI:  Wisconsin Voters for Companion Animals, one of our partner organizations, reported that the council in Juneau voted unanimously to repeal their law.  The repeal comes after a new resident moved into the town.  The resident, Renada Sharp, had moved into town with a banned type of dog, not knowing at the time that there was a breed ban in place.  When Sharp found out about the ban, she requested that the council repeal the ordinance. The initial request was made a couple of months before the repeal was officially drafted and heard.  This is a pretty typical time line for a repeal that is fully supported by the council.  The local police chief stated to the news media that the ordinance was “unnecessary” because the town already had a breed neutral dangerous dog law in place.  It is interesting that this was passed in the first place.  The law is not an old one in the scheme of breed discriminatory laws.  Most municipalities do better than passing them in the first place, now that we have better science and understanding of the factors that drive dangerous dogs.

Grandview, MO:  We don’t have many details on the driving factors behind this repeal at this time.  Grandview is a relatively small town, and it appears that news media have not picked up on this story.  Brent Toellner, from KC Dog Blog, reported the repeal Tuesday night.  We do know that the repeal, was once again, a unanimous vote.  Grandview’s repeal follows a repeal from Roeland Park, MO, who repealed their breed discriminatory law in the end of January, and an ever growing list from the state in general from last year.

Two unanimous repeals on the same night.

When officials are presented with the latest studies and statistics from their towns, the result is the same.  In some cases, repeal takes more energy and people than in others.  The political climate and whether any officials have an investment of ego in the breed discriminatory law are both huge factors in how seamless a repeal will be.  There is no one formula that will work in every place but the ultimate goal is always safer and more humane communities, and every repeal brings us closer to this goal.

Rhode Island bill would allow towns to reinstate breed discriminatory laws

Officials in Pawtucket, Rhode Island are once again trying to make it so they are allowed to retain their breed ban.

The ban was nullified by the recently passed state law prohibiting breed discriminatory laws.  When the state law was passed, officials claimed the law did not nullify existing ordinances.  Pawtucket was then sued by the Defenders of Animals and Albert Alix.  A judge found that Pawtucket did not have the right to retain the ban and the state law supersedes all existing breed discriminatory laws.  Pawtucket officials had time to appeal this decision.  They did not appeal.

Instead, they are attempting to get their breed ban back legislatively.

A bill, H 5800, would amend the state’s animal control law that prohibits breed discriminatory laws.  The amendment would allow cities that had such a law before July 15, 2013, to keep them intact.

6 (b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, any rule, regulation 7 or ordinance specific to any breed of dog or cat enacted in any city or town prior to July 15, 2013, 8 shall remain in full force and effect until repealed by the appropriate officials of the city or town.

This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Municipal Government and has not yet been scheduled for a hearing date.

Pawtucket had their chance when the bill was being heard and again, during the court case.  The courts have ruled and this bill is a last-ditch attempt at being able to defy the order the judge.

This would not only affect Pawtucket, but would also allow any other town to re-instate their breed discriminatory law.

RHODE ISLAND RESIDENTS:

Reach out to the committee and respectfully ask that they do not support this bill.

The Defenders of Animals are collecting a legal paper petition in opposition to this bill.  Defenders of Animals will be at the Pet Supplies Plus at 171 Sockanosset Cross Rd Cranston, RI 02920 on Sunday March 8, 2015, between 12 Noon and 4 PM collecting signatures.  People in the area who can attend to sign should do so.

It is imperative that you reach out now, so this bill does not move forward.

The committee contact information is as follows:

 Representative Mia A. Ackerman: rep-ackerman@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Gregg Amore: rep-amore@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Jean-Phillipe Barros: rep-barros@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative David A. Bennett: rep-bennett@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Gregory J. Costantino: rep-costantino@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative David A. Coughlin, Jr.: rep-coughlin@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Robert E. Craven, Sr.: rep-craven@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Blake A. Filippi: rep-filippi@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Kathleen A. Fogarty: rep-fogarty@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Joy Hearn: rep-hearn@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Raymond H. Johnston, Jr.: rep-johnston@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Charlene Lima: rep-lima@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Shelby Maldonado: rep-maldonado@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Kenneth A. Marshall:  rep-marshall@rilin.state.ri.us

 Representative Justin Price:  rep-price@rilin.state.ri.us

2014 Year in Review

It is time to take a look back at 2014, and what the year has brought us in the world of breed discriminatory laws.  2013 was a good year, but pales in comparison to what happened this year.

Below is a list of passages, repeals and rejections of breed discriminatory laws, as well as some notable court cases.  For our purposes, rejection means when a breed discriminatory law of any kind was brought up by an official and discussed.  Because of this, this list may vary from what others consider a rejection, which differs greatly depending on who is asked.  We use this definition in order to have a base from year to year, with which to compare.


Repeals:
Kennet, MO
Bonner Springs, KS
Canton, MI
Waterloo, WI
Bradford, PA
Clayton, MO
Garden City, KS
South Bend, Indiana
Washington Court, OH
Dearborn County, Indiana
Muscoda, WI
Hallsville, MO
Spring Hill, KS
Fairway, KS
Moreauville, LA
Cambridge, WI
16 total


Partial repeal:
Whitepine, Tennessee


Rejection:
El Dorado KS-rejected adding breeds to existing law
Cincinnati, OH
League City, TX
Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana
Randolph County, AR
Madison, WI
Medford, OR
Monticello, AR
Springdale, AR
Baker City, OR
10 total


Passage:
Lake Elsinore, CA MSN
Carroll County, MS
Humphrey, AR (“pit bulls” Rottweilers and Bull Mastiffs)
3 total


State:

In 2014 both Utah and South Dakota passed state-wide prohibitions against breed discriminatory laws.  Washington, Missouri and Maryland all attempted similar bills but ultimately the bills died at some point in the process.

Maryland:  Legislators finally passed a bill that over turned the disastrous court of appeals ruling in the case of Tracey v Solesky.  Legislators were hung up on the standard of liability for dog owners, but were unanimous about the need to over rule the landlord liability for dog bites and the breed discriminatory part of the ruling.  They finally reached a consensus after years of debate.


Court cases:

New Llano, Louisiana:  Unenforceable by court order.  The Nelson family sued the town of New Llano after they were told to remove their dog from the town or risk her being killed.  The Nelsons had just moved to New Llano and were un-aware of the ban.  Mazzy was held in boarding for a long time as the court case went through the process.  An injunction was filed and granted by the judge.  This case is still technically active.

Clay, Alabama:  In early 2013, the town of Clay passed a breed ban.  This was immediately challenged and mid 2013 an injunction was filed.  2014 saw that case before the courts and the judge ruled against the town.  A couple notable things about that case was the judge saying that the town cannot ban something they have had no issue with.  Officials admitted the ban was passed after the read an article about “pit bulls.”

We have seen repeated victories in court against Reynoldsburg, Ohio’s law, though they remain at the level of municipal court and are limited to people keeping their dogs and not challenging the law itself.

Aurora, Co:  Aurora became the second city to put a breed discriminatory law on the ballot and, though the ballot measure ultimately failed, we saw amazing success in messaging, as well as a stark reminder that many people are not even aware they are living under these laws.  A full analysis of the events can be found here: http://stopbsl.org/2014/11/06/aurora-colorado-the-good-the-bad-and-the-silver-lining/

2014 was a remarkable year for the rights of individuals and community safety.  More and more municipalities are seeing the failure of breed discriminatory laws and overturning them.  No doubt 2015 will be better.

It can be easy to lose sight of the larger picture when dealing with this fight day in and day out.  We hope that this post shows that the tide is, in fact, turning against breed discriminatory laws, and laws that target irresponsible and reckless owners are winning out.

If you know of a repeal, rejection or enactment that is not on this list, please let me know by e-mailing StopBSL.org@gmail.com.

Roeland Park, KS repeals breed ban

Last night officials in Roeland Park, Kansas, ended a months long debate on their “pit bull” ban by voting to repeal the ordinance.

The vote was 6-2 in favor of repeal.

The discussion has been a long one, with many months of debate.  The law, which was enacted in the late 80’s, had not been changed since its initial enactment.

The late 80’s and early 90’s were a pinnacle of hysteria surrounding pit bull types, with national headlines in publications such as Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine.  There was no real data or science studying the issue of dangerous dogs.

Since we have seen vast leaps in the understanding of dog behavior and genetics, more and more of these kinds of laws are falling by the wayside.

Roeland Park joins a long list of Kansas cities that have repealed old and outdated breed discriminatory laws.  This list includes Bonner Springs, Garden City, Spring Hill and Fairway.  These cities all repealed in 2014.

The council meeting was heavily attended, with those for repeal vastly out numbering those for keeping the old law in place.  Only one speaker was opposed to the repeal.

At the moment, people are still restricted from owning more than one dog identified as a pit bull.  This limitation was included as an amendment and will be in effect until January 2018.  There was opposition from the council to the amendment, but they voted to enact it in the interest of “compromise.”

Potential statewide BSL-Mississippi

UPDATED 1/27/2015:  We are hearing that the committee will not be bringing this bill forward to be heard.  It is unclear at this time if this is the action of the full committee or by request of the sponsor.  As of February 3rd, the bill will have passed its deadline for the committee to act and will be officially dead.  At this time we are removing contact information for the bills sponsors but will be monitoring the situation and calendars extremely closely, so that should HB 1261 be scheduled to be heard, we will be able to alert accordingly.  When we have more information or when the bill is either pulled or dead we will update here, as well as issuing a separate alert.

We are not taking the decision to remove contact information lightly and if we did not believe this was credible information, we would not have removed it.

1/25/2015-A state level alert is being issued for the state of Mississippi.

Best Friends Animal Society has discovered that a bill, House Bill 1261, has been introduced that would target dogs resembling pit bulls, including in the definition, American Bulldogs.

The language of the bill:

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:

SECTION 1. The provisions of Sections 1 through 6 shall be known and may be cited as the “Mississippi Regulation of Dangerous Dogs Act.”
SECTION 2. For purposes of Sections 1 through 6 of this act, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings ascribed below, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise: Dangerous dog means: 1. Any pit bull dog in a class of dogs that specifically includes the
breeds of American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American bulldog, and any other pure bred or mixed that is a combination of these breeds.

The bill creates a list of requirements for owners of dogs designated as restricted and criminal penalties for failure to meet these requirements.  Dogs must be muzzled when off the property, secured when on the property either by a kennel or tether.  The owner must place a sign on the property alerting the presence of the “dangerous dog,” keep their windows closed in a manner that the dog cannot potentially escape and a person convicted of a felony cannot own a “dangerous dog.”

One thing that stands out is the encouragement of tethering in this bill.  The bill specifies that an owner of a “dangerous dog” must  “Leash, chain, tie or tether the dog to an inanimate object other than one within a secure enclosure, such as a tree or building.

The bill gives “law enforcement officers” blanket authority to enter a person’s property in order to check that they are in compliance with the bill.

“In order to determine if there is a violation of this section, a law enforcement officer, at any time, may enter the premises where a dangerous dog is kept, or is believed to be kept, for an on-site inspection of the premises.” (emphasis mine)

This is a costly piece of legislation.  The Best Friends fiscal impact calculator estimates the expense of this piece of legislation at almost $4 and a half MILLION dollars a year.

As more and more states prohibit breed discriminatory laws, this would be a huge step back for community safety, and the rights of individuals, as well as starting a potential landslide of even more stringent forms of breed discrimination, such as bans, across the state.  We saw this effect in Ohio, when their statewide restrictions were in place.

The language of the bill in general tramples on many constitutional rights in many different ways, as well as allows dogs to be taken and killed off-hand under certain circumstances, regardless as to the actual breed or type of the dog.  As usual, we see no thought as to how these dogs will be identified and how people may contest identification, nor is there any understanding for the monumental financial strain this will put on both the state and the dogs owners.

You may view the full text of the bill here:  http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2015/pdf/HB/1200-1299/HB1261IN.pdf