Category Archives: BSL Repealed

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  They voted unanimously to pass the new law and repeal the outdated breed discriminatory law.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.

Waterloo Wisconsin repeals breed discriminatory restrictions

In 2013 Waterloo Wisconsin officials were discussing the possibility of repealing their breed restrictions.

Enacted in 1996, the ordinance targeted  “(1)The pit bull terrier breed of dog. (2) The Staffordshire bull terrier breed of dog. (3) The American pit bull terrier breed of dog. (4) The American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog. (5) Dogs of mixed breed or of other breeds than listed under Subsections (1) to (4) above whose breed or mixed breed is commonly known as “pit bull,” “pit bull dog” or “pit bull terrier.”

These dogs and their mixes were considered to be vicious by default.  Dogs that were targeted had to be muzzled, on a leash of a certain length, confined to the specifications of the ordinance, both inside and outside the house, targeted dogs are not allowed to live in multi-dwelling housing and signs must be posted.  These rules apply to dogs that have been declared vicious by their behaviors, as well as those who are determined to be a targeted breed.

In 2013 Watertown, WI, looked into a breed discriminatory law and rejected the idea after a lengthy debate.  The proposal there was a mirror of Waterloo’s ordinance.  This rejection was used to galvanize support in the area against breed discriminatory laws, as well as highlighting and supporting the failure of such a law.

Alderwoman Laura Cotting suggested removing the breed discriminatory language at the October 3rd meeting of the Health and Safety Committee.

At their last meeting, officials acted on this suggestion by removing all breed based language from the dangerous dog ordinance.

We have been able to get some information about what happened there behind the scenes.

The issue first came up when a bike trail between Waterloo and Watertown was approved to be installed by the State.  A group of dog carting and sledding enthusiasts who hold events in the area decided, based on several factors, that this trail would be a great place to promote dog carting events, but because of the existing breed discriminatory law in Waterloo, participants would not be able to cross the city line without stopping to muzzle some of the participating dogs.   This raised some questions for competitions, as well as the legalities behind dogs that may not be residing in Waterloo, and whether the law would affect them.  Included in the participating dogs that were restricted are therapy dogs working in the surrounding areas.

The city was contacted by community members who were concerned about the effect the breed discriminatory law would have on such events and the city at large.

After the city was contacted, a committee was formed to investigate the issue, look at the existing law, make recommendations and draft changes to the existing law.  Three public Safety Committee meetings were held.  The public was invited to participate in all meetings.  After the changes were drafted, there was a public hearing on the new language in the ordinance.   Between 10 and 15 people attended the hearing.   There were some differences of opinion on aspects of the changes officials were making to strengthen the revised breed neutral law, such as leash requirements and licensing issues, but all the residents agreed that breed neutral was the way the city should go.

Only one person spoke in support of the existing breed discriminatory language.  This person was not known to the community members.  When it became clear that the idea of keeping the existing breed discriminatory language was not supported by any member of the community or council, we are told that the individual that was there supporting it became frustrated.  This person had, at one point, attempted to get some personal information of the people who suggested the repeal, but the members of the community refused to disclose any of that information.

There was only one dissenting vote to the changes.

Congratulations to the city of Waterloo, Wisconsin, for supporting safe and humane communities, and wanting to address the real causes of dangerous dogs, reckless and negligent owners.

Canton Michigan officials vote to repeal breed discriminatory law

Tuesday night, officials in Canton unanimously voted to repeal their 20-year-old restrictions on dog deemed to be pit bulls.

The old ordinance targeted, “Any dog known by the owner to be a pit terrier, which shall be defined as any American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog or any mixed breed of dog known to contain as an element of its breeding any of such breeds.”  Dogs that met this definition were considered vicious by default.

It is important to note that the specific language that is included in the old ordinance, the “as an element of its breeding,” has been subject to litigation and defeated as lacking in a rational basis.

Owners of targeted dog, under the old ordinance, had to have the dog tattooed, muzzled, confined according to the ordinance and have a file with animal control.

Officials said that the restrictions were passed when other places were instituting bans in the area.  It is not uncommon for areas to enact similar ordinances, as well as repeal ordinances, in tandem with what surrounding areas do.  Breed discriminatory laws were at their height during this period and there was no data to support or oppose them as related to public safety.  As more data mounts against these kinds of laws as effecting means to improve the safety in the community, more places are repealing their old laws, leading into more places repealing.

The changes come after a local couple with a targeted dog approached the council and advocated for the removal of the breed discriminatory language.

The revised ordinance still addresses the issue of dangerous dogs but dogs will no longer be target based on their looks, but rather on the manner in which they are being handled in the community, as well as their behavior.  All dogs are still required to be maintained on a leash except for designated off leash areas.

The changes will take effect in the end of January after the second reading of the repeal is approved.

Bonner Springs Kansas lifts pit bull ban

Monday night officials in Bonner Springs Kansas voted to repeal their ban on pit bulls.

Last year a dog named Titan was picked up by the local animal control as being a banned dog.  When the dog was adopted several years ago it was listed as a terrier mix and adopted legally, but when animal control became involved they decided the dog was banned.  Animal control became involved when a neighbor called to complain about the dog.

The owner went to city officials to ask them to reconsider the ban.  In response city officials put together a task force to examine the issue.  The task force recommended repealing the ban.

Earlier this year one council member had said he supported the ban because he was concerned about animal controls ability to handle “large dogs.”

While handling of an animal could be a concern, the nature of animal control should involve training that helps to actively control any animal regardless of size or temperament.

Most of the council were immediately supportive.  Councilmen Jack Knight noted that, “Some of these ordinances go back and a lot of them has to be changed.”

Council President Tom Stephens was also supportive of the change.  He said, while researching the issue, he had found a book, likely the Pit Bull Placebo, that discussed how different breeds have been demonized throughout history.

“Sometimes we get a false sense of security if we look at a breed and say ‘That breed is the problem, so if we make a law banning it, we’ll be O.K.,’” Stephens said back in July of 2013.

This had not been the first time a resident had requested the change, and city officials listened to their constituents, researched the issue and repealed their ban, based on the facts.

The changes to the law will take effect on January 16th.