Category Archives: BSL Repealed

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At this meeting, the entire dangerous dog ordinance was repealed, not just the breed based portion.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.

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.

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.

 

Garden City Kansas repeals breed discriminatory law

Garden City officials have been considering a repeal of their long-standing breed discriminatory restrictions since late 2013.

At last nights meeting officials were set to hear a proposal to repeal their breed discriminatory law that targeted “American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier, or any mixed animal that appears to be predominantly one of those breeds.”

Officials voted to repeal the old breed discriminatory law at this meeting.

Under the old law, those previously mentioned breeds were considered to be vicious by default.  Owners of targeted breeds had to abide by the restrictions set out for dogs that had previously attacked, even though they had done nothing wrong in the community.  This included muzzling, confinement requirements and posted sign as well as a handful of other restrictions often seen in these laws.

A local attorney had asked the commission to consider repealing the law back in December of 2013.  As a result of last nights vote, all dogs will be targeted based on their behavior instead of their appearance.

The city attorney had immediately expressed support for repealing when the issue was raised, and had stated that he had the conversation with other officials about a repeal before.

Congratulations to those in Garden City.  This was truly a grassroots effort, with presentations by concerned citizens, and officials that listened to their concerns and responded accordingly.

Clayton MO unanimously repeals breed discriminatory law

Clayton Missouri repealed their long-standing breed discriminatory law.

The old law considered all “pit bulls” to be dangerous and mandated a list of requirements to own one.  The requirements included registration and reporting. The dogs had to wear a bright orange collar and be confined per the ordinance, be on a leash and wear a muzzle. The owner must post warning signs, keep liability insurance.

From the ordinance, a targeted dog was defined as follows: “Any bull terrier breed of dog, which shall be defined as any Staffordshire bull terrier breed of dog and/or any American pit bull terrier breed of dog and/or any American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog and/or any mixed breed of dog which contains, as an element of its breeding, genetic components of the aforementioned bull terrier breed of dog and/or any dog which has the appearance and characteristics and is known by the owner to be predominantly of the breeds of the bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier and/or any other breed commonly known as pit bulls, pit bull dogs or pit bull terriers or a combination of any of these breeds.

This is a good example of the broad reaching definition of “pit bull” some municipalities take.

Examining the ordinance, it becomes clear why this was repealed.  Not only has the language “as an element of its breeding” been challenged and struck down in court, the general definition is so wide and to literally encompass anything that has short hair and is a medium-sized dog.

Thought there is not much information at this point, we do know from those that attended the meeting, it was repealed unanimously.

Bradford PA comes into compliance with state law

For years Pennsylvania has had a state law that prohibits breed discrimination in any form.

When this law was enacted, there were no grandfather clauses allowed, and all places with breed discriminatory laws had to repeal their existing ordinances as they were voided by state law.

Some places seem to never have been made aware of the state law, as we saw with Bessemer PA last year, and now Bradford PA this year.

According to officials, they were questioned about the legality of the existence of their ordinance targeting “pit bulls” as dangerous.  The declaration of being dangerous meant that, in Bradford, dogs deemed to be pit bulls were banned, as dangerous dogs were not allowed in the city.

After an investigation, they were told that state law does in fact invalidate the ordinance, and they moved to officially remove the old ordinance from the books.

Tuesday, January 28th, the council met and repealed the old breed discriminatory law.  This was done without ceremony, and with out opposition, during a meeting where many different items of business were discussed.

Though there are some who list ordinances in PA as being valid, it is shown repeatedly that this is not the case.  Pennsylvania doe not allow breed discrimination by municipalities at all.  

Not only that but PA also takes things a step farther, being one of 2 states in the US that do not allow insurance companies to refuse or cancel coverage based on the breed of dog of the insured.