Category Archives: BSL

Moreauville, LA repeals breed ban; Implements state law

After a dramatic couple of weeks, the Moreauville, LA, board voted, on December 1st, to unanimously repeal the recently passed breed ban that targeted “pit bulls” and Rottweilers.

At this meeting, the entire dangerous dog ordinance was repealed, not just the breed based portion.  The only thing that remained at the time was the leash law that had been passed around 20 years ago.

On December 8th, the board voted to implement Louisiana state dangerous dog law.  This law is completely breed neutral and focuses on the actions of the dog and owner.

The ban was passed at the request of several residents.  It was not a consideration of the board until the request was made.  There were multiple incidents with dogs menacing residents, and they finally reached their breaking point.

I spoke to Mayor Timmy Lemoine about several incidents.  One resident has their dog chained along the recently built pavilion and play ground area.  Families hold birthday parties and gatherings there.  Despite there being room on the property for the dog to not be in direct contact with that particular section, that is where the dog was chained.  Chained dogs are often frustrated and act out, and this dog is no different.  Several complaints had been made from residents fearing the chain would break.  Officials attempted to speak to the dog owner, asking that the chain spot be moved back away from the common area, and were met with an extremely hostile response.  It went so far that residents stopped using the public area out of fear of this particular dog.

Another issue is a dog that is used intentionally to menace others.  We are told a man would sit with his dog on the front porch of his house, near the sidewalk and tell his dog to “Sic ‘em” as people passed.

Mayor Lemoine had concerns about the way some dogs are being housed.  There are dogs that are chained all day in the Louisiana summer heat, with no shelter and minimal resources.  “A dog out on a chain like that all day goes crazy.  Anyone would,” said Lemoine.

He stated that it was the intention of the board that confiscated dogs be held at a local veterinary clinic while the owners arranged for housing elsewhere or elected to have the dogs put down.  The thought seemed to be that the dogs would be housed in a better place and cared for.  “It isn’t humane the way these dogs are being kept…I don’t see how that is humane out on a chain like that all the time.”

The ordinance was copied from a neighboring town and, as such, the language and use of the word “disposition” was left open to interpretation.  Mayor Lemoine said that the implications of the wording were not considered in depth in the passage of the ban and understands why it was interpreted the way it was.

It was the understanding of officials that the ordinance, as written, was constitutional.  They were advised by the town attorney that this was the case because it had not been challenged in the municipality it originated from.

October 13th, the board voted to pass the ban.  Mayor Lemoine said that they felt stuck.  They had been asked to do this by their constituents and did not realize the implications of the law.

Having been advised by the attorney that it was ok and having heard from officials in the town the ban originated from that it was “working” made it seem like a ban would be the cleanest solution to their problems.  “I know the owners are the problem here, but we can’t ban the owners so it seemed like we could do something by banning the dogs,” said Lemoine in an interview with us.  “We were stuck between a rock and a hard place.  It is an election year and they (the residents) made it clear this was what they wanted and if we didn’t do it they wouldn’t vote for us…”

Officials did not expect the ban to garner the attention it did.  The story was featured internationally, created a circus of half-truths and opened the door to opportunism and fraud. Much of this attention can be traced to the images of Ohara Owens and Zeus.  The media zeroed in on this aspect of the story because of the health problems of the young woman.  They took the story and ran with it, taking the statement that the dog was “like a therapy dog” and turning it into Zeus actually being a therapy dog.  Fundraisers were started by uninvolved parties, as well as involved parties for personal expenses, unrelated to this issue.

Mayor Lemoine addressed the issue of Zeus in our conversation.  He stated that he contacted a reporter at KALB about the issue.  “Zeus was never at risk…I received an e-mail from (the family) saying he was an American Bulldog…I told them to throw out the letter…he was safe…Zeus wasn’t a problem.  He was in the house and never caused any issues…I didn’t want to talk to (the family) directly because anything I said could be used against me.”

Mayor Lemoine had to disable social media messengers because of threats.  We have said this before, will say it again and will likely have to repeat it in the future.  Threats of any kind are inappropriate, counter productive and absolutely unwarranted no matter what the circumstances.

In speaking to Mayor Lemoine, several things become clear.  This was a case of a lack of adequate research and wanting to act quickly on the request of residents.  The intentions of the board were good ones.  The behavior of the problem dog owners is abhorrent.  At the risk of editorializing, if there is blame to be placed for the passage of this ban, that blame would rest squarely on the shoulders of those who are mismanaging their dogs and creating issues in Moreauville.

It is clear that both Mayor Lemoine and the board care deeply about their community.  “We are a nice little town and we don’t want people to have to fear,” said Lemoine.

People readily ascribe negative intentions to officials who pass these laws but most often the intentions are not bad ones but more poorly thought out in the rush to act.

It is easy to get lost in emotion and vitriol when dealing with matters of breed discriminatory laws.  We cannot allow ourselves to get wrapped up in half-truths and rhetoric.  We have to be open to honest dialogue about the needs of the community at large and build bridges with officials on all levels.  Nothing is gained in threats and hatred and indeed we have more to lose by indulging in these paths.  We cannot expect everyone to understand how breed based laws affect the community without a thorough and thoughtful conversation.

For the most part intentions are good, though efforts misplaced and effects misunderstood.  Mistakes are made.  We must move past these mistakes and offer our help and expertise to officials who find themselves in the difficult position of having to draft a law they have no experience with.

The simple solution is not always the most effective, but it is the most attractive.  Lets offer help in place of hate, and build bridges to safer and more humane communities.

Moreauville, LA, passes breed ban: Demands all current dogs be removed

UPDATED INFORMATION HERE:  stopbsl.org/2014/11/24/moreauville-la-update-officials-pledge-to-suspend-enforcement-of-ban

On October 13th the small town of Moreauville, Louisiana, passed a ban on pit bull type dogs and Rottweilers.

The city has a little over 900 residents and no online presence.

Officials claim that they passed the ban at the request of  several residents.  These residents approached the council saying that they were unable to walk in certain neighborhoods because “these dogs were basically running along town.”  Alderman Penn Lemoine said the ordinance was enacted to “appease” these residents.

Officials say that there have been attacks but none have been documented.  This begs the question, what sort of animal control is in place, or was in place, before the ban?  Was it being enforced?  At the very least, it is clear that any laws that were in place were not being enforced.  We are attempting to get a copy of any pertinent legislation for review, but at this time, it is unclear if there are any laws on the books, or if there is an animal control agent tasked with enforcement.

The law does not have a grandfather clause.  This means that every single dog that matches the targeted type is at risk of being confiscated and killed.  A letter was sent out to residents saying that they must get rid of their dogs by December 1st or they will be confiscated and taken to a “veterinary clinic for further disposition.”

letter to remove dogs moreauville la

According to a local report, when the police chief was asked what would happen if dogs are not turned over voluntarily, the resident questioning the chief was told that, “They would come and get the dog and the dog would be disposed of and we would be fined.”

When pressed to clarify what “disposition” meant, Alderman Penn Lemoine refused, saying, “I’d rather not elaborate on that.”  Apparently, city officials are fine with passing a law that takes away and kills people’s dogs because of the way they look, but they are not comfortable talking about it publicly.

Something the Pro-BSL lobby claims all the time is that a ban doesn’t mean that dogs are taken away from their homes and killed.  They claim that these are scare tactics used by “pit bull advocates.”  They claim that all current owned dogs are allowed to live out the rest of their lives under a ban and that it is just new dogs that are not allowed.  We know from many places that this is not true, and this letter to owners of pit bulls and Rottweilers is just more evidence of that.  We at StopBSL would like a statement from BSL proponents, clarifying what exactly they mean, in the face of this evidence, that it is only a “scare tactic.”

Families with targeted dogs are seeking support to be able to keep their dogs.  There is a question as to the legality of taking property that was obtained legally at the time of the legislations passage (in this case dogs are considered property) and “disposing” of it.  There are also questions about the legality of the ordinance in general.  Preliminary review from experts in the field of dangerous dog law  point to numerous constitutional and due process issues in the ban.

Officials are claiming that if there is enough of an outcry, they might revisit the issue on the December 8th meeting.  This is completely insufficient.  The deadline for the targeted dogs is a week before the next meeting.

RESIDENTS AND LOCALS:  It is incredibly important that members of the council hear your voices.  The passage of the ban was kept relatively quiet until now.  It is important that people are heard but all communication must be professional, respectful and factual.  We know this is an emotional issue, but anger and vitriol achieves nothing except to alienate officials in a time when people need their voices to be heard the most.  Offer alternatives, such as containment laws and point out the many failures of breed discriminatory laws.

Fosters are being lined up so that the targeted dogs can have a safe place to go, if needed, while this issue is resolved.  If you are local and outside the city limits of Moreauville, and can foster, please send a message to www.facebook.com/RepealBSLMoreauville.

Spring Hill, Kansas, repeals breed ban

Spring Hill Kansas has repealed their ban on “pit bull dogs.”

The old law, which was passed in 2008, defined a pit bull dog as follows:

Any pit bull dog.  (1) “Pit bull dog” means:
a. The 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;
e. Dogs of mixed breed or of other breeds than above-listed which breed or mixed breed is known as pit bulls, pit bull dogs or pit bull terriers;
f. Any dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of Bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier; any other breed commonly known as pit bulls, pit bull dogs or pit bull terriers; or a combination of any of these breeds.

The penalties for violation were severe, with fines of up to $2,000 and up to 179 days in jail.  This ordinance was rare, in that it included the reasoning for the original passage of the ban.

“1. That as a breed of dogs, all pit bulls are inherently dangerous.
2. That the possession of pit bulls within the City poses a significant threat to the public’s health, safety and welfare.
3. That numerous instances of attacks by pit bulls have occurred against members of this community and attacks by pit bulls in surrounding communities have resulted in serious injuries.
4. That protective measures by pit bull owners are inadequate to protect the public from attacks by these animals.”

On November 13th, the city council approved the final reading of an ordinance to repeal the breed ban.  The issue was originally raised at a previous meeting and the city took on the task of investigating the issue.  Topeka, Kansas’ dangerous dog law was selected for review.  The council notes  mention Topeka’s breed neutrality, and the issues they had found with their former breed discriminatory law and the cost to tax payers.

Topeka had a breed discriminatory law that was repealed in 2010.  It makes sense that the Spring Hill Council would look at the information from there, considering that Topeka had a committee that spent substantial time and energy reworking the animal control ordinances.

The breed neutral law goes into effect after its publication in the local news.  The new law will prohibit any dog that is declared dangerous, based on the actions of the animal, and not it’s perceived breed.

Hallsville, MO, repeals breed ban

Hallsville, Missouri had a ban on “pit bulls” for over 20 years.  Passed in 1989, the ban was instituted after there were some “aggressive” pit bulls in the community, according to Mayor Cheri Reish.

On November 10th, the board of aldermen voted unanimously to repeal the long-standing ban.  The issue came up after a family was targeted as having a banned dog.  The dog was newly adopted and the family wanted to be able to keep their dog.  They approached the council with the request that the ban be re-examined.  According to the Mayor of Hallsville, the Board decided that the ordinance was “an unfair law.”

It took only roughly month between the time the initial request was made to the time the board repealed the law.

The Mayor also spoke of people who wanted to move into the community, but were unable to because of the ban. In a report on the repeal the mayor said, “We had a couple of people wanting to move in our city who already own pit-bull dogs.  Once they found out we didn’t allow them, they decided not to move into our city.”

City officials see the repeal as a positive one for the community.  They cited the ability of local shelters to be able to find homes for dogs in need as well as creating equitable laws for everyone and an equal standard of behavior.

Hallsville does have a generic dangerous dog law, that addresses all dogs.  Interestingly, a group has been working on getting an ordinance that would prohibit tethering a dog for 24 hours a day, but it keeps failing to move forward.

Enumclaw, Washington, considers repeal of breed ban

A change to the Enumclaw, WA, ordinance that bans “pit bulls” is working its way through the city council.

The first vote of the repeal was passed on September 22nd, with only one dissenting vote.  The second and final reading of the repeal is set to be heard on October 13th.

The current ordinance defines “pit bull” as “any dog over the age of six months known by the owner to be a Pit Bull Terrier. Pit Bull Terrier shall mean any Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, or Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog or any mixed breed of dog which contains as an element of its breeding the breed of Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier so as to be identifiable as partially of the breed Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier.

Again, we see the use of the “as an element of its breeding” in the ordinance, which has been successfully challenged in court several times.  Because the implication is that even a dog with 1% of the listed breeds is banned, there is a question as to whether, rationally, a dog with 1% of anything could contain the supposed “inherent” behaviors of that breed.

City administrator Chris Searcy stated that the city repeatedly receives requests from residents to repeal the law, showing support for the repeal, specific to residents.

Residents and locals are encouraged to attend the meeting, to show support for the repeal.  If you cannot attend this meeting, you can contact the city council to politely and factually support the repeal of the current breed ban, by finding your council members information on the cities website.

Missouri Valley Iowa to consider repeal of breed ban

Missouri Valley, Iowa, currently has a breed ban in place.  Officials are looking into the possibility of repealing their ban and enacting restrictions instead.

Last month, a resident had his dog confiscated under the ordinance.  The dog in question was moved to an out-of-state location and is currently living with family members.  In response, the resident, Bryan Athay, and his girlfriend, Katie Flora, obtained 63 signatures from registered voters in Missouri Valley asking that the ordinance be revisited.

This is a point of interest for several different reasons.  Often we see online petitions, but the criticism of those is always the same from councils.  Officials point out, rightly so, that signatures on online petitions come from out-of-town, out-of-state and also, in many cases, out of country.  City councils are most apt to listen to the voters in their community.  Even petitions that are taken of residents generally do not have the forethought to limit those to registered voters.  This shows incredible thought and tact on the part of Mr. Athay.

A second point of interest is that Missouri Valley, Iowa, has a population of roughly 2,750 people.  This is an extremely small community.  According to census data there are approximately 1,500 registered voters.  This means that the signatures gathered in less then one month represent slightly over 4% of registered voters in the community.  While this may not seem impressive at face value, given the length of time in which the signatures were gathered, and the fact that they limited it to not only residents, but registered voters in the community, the 4% becomes a much more impressive feat.

The current ordinance targets a variety of dogs under their “pit bull” ban.

E. Pit Bull Terriers, including the following:
(1) The Bull Terrier breed of dog;
(2) The Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed;
(3) The American Staffordshire Terrier breed;
(4) The American Pit Bull Terrier breed;
(5) Dogs of mixed breed or other breeds which are known as pit
bulls, pit bulldogs or pit bull terriers;
(6) Any dog which has the appearance and characteristics of
being predominantly of the breeds of Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull
Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier,
any other breed commonly known as pit bulls, pit bull dogs or pit bull
terriers or a combination of any of these breeds.

This law is covered under the city code regarding Dangerous and Vicious animals, putting “pit bulls” in the same category as badgers, wolverines, weasels, skunk and mink, raccoons, bats and, oddly enough, scorpions.

The council will meet on July 1st, where the issue will likely be open to discussion.

South Bend Indiana unanimously repeals breed discriminatory law

After much hard work, officials in South Bend, Indiana, have voted on the new animal control ordinance that includes the repeal of the long-standing breed discriminatory law.  They voted unanimously to pass the new law and repeal the outdated breed discriminatory law.

Passed in 1987, the law restricted American Pit Bull Terriers and those resembling this breed only.  The ordinance was very clear in the definition that American Pit Bull Terrier was defined as the UKC (United Kennel Club) and ADBA (American Dog Breeders Association) standard.

” American Pit Bull Terrier means the breed of dog registered and described by the United Kennel Club (U.K.C) and the American Dog Breeders Association (A.D.B.A.) as the American Pit Bull Terrier, also known as the pit bull terrier, and any crossbreed of the American Pit Bull Terrier; but does not include the breeds known as the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the English Bulldog, the Bull Terrier, or the Bulldog, all of which are recognized by the American Kennel Club (A.K.C.).”

This particular definition had proven to be completely unenforceable considering that it specifically excluded so many breeds and types that are typically lumped into the definition of “pit bull.”

The repeal is not surprising, considering the breadth of the ordinance that is taking its place.  A work group was formed over a year ago to study the issue and the current law, and to draft changes.  The group took their time, forming a new law based on best practices in the industry regarding the care and control of all animals.

Councilwoman Valerie Schey took the issue on head first, recognizing, based on municipal statistics, that the current animal control ordinance wasn’t working to do what was intended.  The changes to the ordinance began in early 2013.

Interestingly, the animal control changes coincided with the dismissal of the long time head of animal control back in April of 2013.  In a local story on the dismissal, Schey commented that “Even though we’ve made significant strides in the care we provide with the new building, I still don’t feel the (euthanasia) numbers are where they need to be.”

Though the media made it seem like the issue of repeal was a hotly contested one, there were no speakers in favor of keeping the old breed discriminatory law at the meeting.

To say the new animal control ordinance is a comprehensive one would be an understatement.  The ordinance covers breeding practices, standards for animal related businesses, animal based entertainment, husbandry issues for all kinds of animals, from horses to bees.  There are detailed definitions for dangerous, potentially dangerous and vicious animals.  There are additions to the law that outline the standard of care for animal owners.  Specific to dogs, there are tethering provisions, husbandry issues addressed and a more detailed dangerous dog law that includes due process for owners, which had been seriously lacking in the old law.

The ordinance is 60 pages and contains some fabulous provisions that will make South Bend a safer and more humane community, which was the goal of Schey when she undertook this project.

South Bend also highlights another issue we have seen recently where proponents of breed discriminatory laws have been interfering with the local legislative process.  We are aware of several well-known pro-BDL advocates, who live out-of-state, that wrote to the legislators misrepresenting themselves as residents.  This has become a recent trend that can be seen in other municipalities as well, Riverside and Pasadena, California, Aurora, Colorado and Missouri are just a few of the other places these tactics are being used.  These people, however are increasingly being seen for what they are, as residents come forward and dominate the conversation, overwhelmingly against breed discriminatory laws.  Councils are more aware than ever that this handful of people, and the groups they represent, are using these tactics in an attempt to sway the conversation, but have no presence in the actual community.

We would like to congratulate Councilwoman Schey for her hard work in crafting the new law, and setting South Bend on the path to becoming a model city for animal care and control.