Category Archives: Whispers of BSL

Medford Oregon public meeting to discuss possible breed discriminatory law

The city of Medford Oregon is discussing the possibility of a breed discriminatory ordinance.

Councilor Karen Blair said recent attacks by dangerous dogs against other dogs prompted her to ask the city for more information about the issue.

In a news report Blair was quoted as saying, “There are few people that can handle a dog that strong, particularly when its jaws naturally lock.”  It is clear that there are some serious misconceptions regarding the anatomy of dogs, that has hopefully been cleared up by some of the correspondence the city council has already received.

The council was reportedly looking into how other municipalities handle dangerous dogs.   The statement was made that presence of breed based bans and restrictions in other areas prompted them to look into the issue for themselves.  While this maybe true, the prejudicial and misinformed statements made point to an internal factor in the investigation of this issue.

Another Oregon town recently discussed breed discrimination.  After looking at the information, Baker City Oregon roundly rejected the idea and the organizations that support these types of laws, as flawed, biased and ineffective.  The result was a fantastic, comprehensive breed neutral law that will serve the entire community.

After a look at municipal bite data, the police department stated that there have been 89 reported dog bites in 3 years.  These numbers were concerning to officials, and they began discussing what can be done to reduce bite rates in the city.  The city of Medford has a population that was estimated to be over 76,000 residents in 2012.

When the idea was originally brought forward, feedback from the officials was mixed.  The Mayor specifically stated that a ban wasn’t on the table.  Several other council members offered similar opposition to a ban, but feedback specific to restrictions was not given.

There was a study session held initially.  According to news reports, the sessions discussed the idea of breed discriminatory legislation in general.  Correspondence from the council has proven this to be true, but the council also heard presentations on why breed discriminatory laws are problematic.

Residents have been collecting signatures on petitions and the council has reportedly received a lot of correspondence regarding the issue.

There is not a lot of feedback regarding which direction the council may take.

Medford Oregon residents:

The city has issued a press release.  A meeting has been scheduled for February 19th beginning at 4:30pm, 411 W. 8th Street, Medford, Oregon, on the 3rd floor of City Hall.  This meeting is being held to hear public input on the potential changes to the current dangerous dog laws.

Residents should attend this meeting to politely and factually oppose breed discriminatory laws.  Those who speak can also present written information to the council for consideration at that time.

Those who cannot attend can direct their written opposition to the council directly at the following e-mail addresses.

Gary  Wheeler – Mayor    mayor@ci.medford.or.us
Karen Blair – Councilmember Ward 2:  council@ci.medford.or.us
Daniel Bunn – Councilmember Ward 4:  council@ci.medford.or.us
Chris Corcoran – Councilmember Ward 3:  council@ci.medford.or.us
Dick Gordon – Councilmember Ward 1:  dick.gordon@cityofmedford.org
Tim  Jackle – Councilmember Ward 1:  council@ci.medford.or.us
Eli Matthews – Councilmember Ward 2:  council@ci.medford.or.us
John Michaels – Councilmember Ward 3:  council@ci.medford.or.us
Bob Strosser – Councilmember Ward 4:  council@ci.medford.or.us

Columbia South Carolina Councilman wants breed discriminatory law

An official on the Columbia South Carolina city council is discussing a “bully breed” ordinance.

Though there are no details yet on exactly what the ordinance may encompass and what specific breeds the councilman would like to target, there are certain things that have been said in the media about the potential intent and direction of the idea.

The justifications for this bear a close examination, as they are ones that appear time and time again.

The first justification is that there is an over population issue in shelters.  Columbia is looking into becoming a no-kill community and officials claim that bully breeds are crowding the shelters.

Based on the reports, we can see that this is clearly not the case.  The shelter reports that only 7% of the animals they euthanize are “pit bulls.”  This is a remarkably low number considering the broad classification and the numerous dogs that are typically labeled as pit bulls by shelter staff.  Currently the shelter euthanize about 11,000 animals a year.

Striving to be a no kill community is an admirable goal, but an ordinance targeting 7% leaves the remaining 93% of shelter euthanasia unaddressed.  That is over 10,000 animals being killed.

What does work for communities to become no kill is not to focus on the killing, but to focus on positive outcomes for the animals that are taken in.

Another issue with this thinking is that no kill and breed discriminatory laws cannot co-exist.  Breed discriminatory laws make targeted dogs much more difficult to adopt out.  Increasing the stigma behind certain dogs decreases adoptions, resulting in higher percentages of killing.  The 7% will quickly build under a breed discriminatory law.

The second justification is one of what is called red lining.  Initially coined to describe the practice of banks literally drawing a red line around certain neighborhoods and denying services to those neighborhoods, the term has now come to encompass both denial of services and targeting what are perceived to be communities of lower social standing.  This is not an uncommon justification in breed discriminatory laws.  When we see reference to the laws being used to target drug dealers or dog fighters, the theory of red lining is being used.  The idea is that only certain “elements” of the population have targeted dogs, and therefore creating a law gives authorities the ability to target people without sufficient probable cause.

There is an element of this is the Columbia officials thinking.  Multiple reports reference dog fighting.

“Pitbull fighting is a multi-million dollar business,” said a representative of Columbia Animal Services. “It’s very secretive to catch them. It is almost impossible.”

The Columbia Police Department said there have not been any recent reports of dog fighting within city limits.

The only element of the proposal that has been clearly outlined is differential licensing fees for an unaltered targeted dog.  Currently fees are $25 for an un-altered dog.  The councilman would like to increase that amount.

So far word from some on the council that have responded to concerned residents is leaning in a positive direction.  We are hearing that thus far there is no plan to discuss this by the full council and that this is one council member who is pushing for it.   Some on the council didn’t even hear about this through the council, but rather through the new paper.

Because this is in the conversation stage at this point, and has not officially been brought to the council, now is the best time for residents to become involved.

COUNCIL MEMBERS:

Sam Davis, District 1 - sdavis@columbiasc.net
Tameika Isaac Devine , at large –  e-mail: tidevine@columbiasc.net
Leona K. Plaugh, District 4-  e-mail: lkplaugh@columbiasc.net
Brian DeQuincey Newman, District 2 - e-mail: bdnewman@columbiasc.net
Cameron Runyan, At-Large - email: carunyan@columbiasc.net
Moe Baddourah, District 3 - email: mobaddourah@columbiasc.net

Breckenridge Colorado is considering a breed discriminatory law

After a dog related incident that was attributed to a dog officials describe as “pit bull terrier”, officials in Breckenridge Colorado are investigating the possibility of enacting a breed discriminatory law.  The incident in question involved a dog on dog attack.

Though Colorado state law prohibits breed based laws, Denver had successfully sued against the state based on what is called home rule.  Denver won the case, effectively opening the door to a home rule city in Colorado being allowed to enact similar laws.

Simply put, home rule is a town charter that allows a municipality the right to self governance, independent of the laws of the state.

A report created by the chief of police mentions the ability of home rule jurisdictions to be able to pass these laws.

From the report:

In 2004, the State of Colorado passed a statute prohibiting municipalities from enacting breed specific bans. The City and County of Denver filed a civil complaint citing their ability as a Home Rule entity to enact and enforce legislation as a matter of local or jurisdictional concern. The District Court upheld the right of a Home Rule municipality “to regulate dangerous dogs within its community”.

This report appears to be an investigation of the other places in Colorado that have breed discriminatory laws in place.  There was no official recommendation but the report mentions a work session that was scheduled for September 10th.

Officials set up a survey for community feedback on the issue.

Under the item asking if a person feels some breeds are more dangerous than others, there are several breeds listed for people to indicate which dogs they feel are more dangerous.

The breeds listed are Doberman, Mastiff, German Shepherd, pit bull, Malamute, Chow, Rottweiler, Husky and an “other” category.

According to the minutes of the August 27th meeting, a council member raised the issue of the dog attack, which occurred during a cycling event.

This was taken directly from the minutes of that meeting,  “Mr. Gallagher mentioned the pit bull terrier incident on Hoosier Pass during the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. He stated he believes Breckenridge should get in front of the situation and do something about aggressive dogs in general and pit bulls in particular. Mayor Warner polled the Council on their thoughts about this issue and the decision was made to charge staff with identifying problem breeds and look to see what other communities have done regarding this issue.

The statement of “identifying problem breeds” implies what the survey backs up, that, should they continue down this path, they will be restricting multiple breeds, their mixes and look a likes.

The minutes from a subsequent meeting contain the following excerpt, “We would like to have a bigger discussion about dogs and people being irresponsible with their pets. Look for some more conversation in the community.”

Residents of Breckenridge should reach out now to their council members and ask that all dog owners be held to the same standards.  The importance of making sure that everyone in the community is safe from dangerous dogs of all kinds should be stressed.  Politely and respectfully oppose any breed discriminatory laws and point out their failure to improve public safety.  Since officials were looking at Denver, you can view information on Denver’s failure here: http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/dogbites/state-by-state-information/co/denver

Breed neutral alternatives can be found here: http://stopbsl.org/alternatives-to-bsl/

There is no direct contact information available for the Mayor or the Town Council but there is an online contact form available on the cities website.

Riverside City CA seeks to change spay/neuter laws

Riverside City is seeking to change their current spay/neuter laws in the wake of the recently passed breed discriminatory spay/neuter law passed by Riverside County officials.

The Riverside County law only applies to unincorporated areas of the county, so it becomes the job of the incorporated areas of the county to decide if they will enact similar legislation.

Oddly, Riverside City already has a mandatory spay/neuter law that applies to all dogs, with some exemptions.  Officials have said that this law is enforced only when an animal is picked up for another violation, or if there is some kind of complaint.

The changes being sought would have city officials actively targeting dogs they think are pit bulls for enforcement.

It is expected that the change will mirror the Riverside County law, which requires that all dogs who are deemed to be a targeted type be altered by the young age of four months.

There has been no discussion by either the Riverside County officials or Riverside city officials about the implications for the health and welfare of the dogs that are being forced to undergo a pediatric procedure that is extremely controversial in the veterinary community.

The changes would target “Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Stafford Terriers and mixes in which those breeds can be easily identified. It would include exceptions for registered breeders, dogs with health issues that prevent sterilization and law enforcement dogs.” (read more)

Riverside City already has a spay/neuter law, so what is the motivation for targeting one type of dog for special enforcement and attention?  The language used by officials make their intentions very clear.

Increasing the conversations being had by officials in California is troublesome.  Officials in Pasadena were questioning the existence of the state law that prohibits all breed based laws with the exception of mandatory spay/neuter, saying their hands were “tied” and that was all they were able to do about their “pit bull problem.”   Riverside County officials started the conversation with promises to overturn the state law but, after the backlash, went for the more palatable spay/neuter.  Now there is Riverside City, who, if they change the current law, will be actively going after people whose dogs look a certain way, while not bothering to enforce the spay/neuter law that is in place for all other dogs unless they are caught.

There is something decidedly wrong with this pattern.

Breed discrimination is breed discrimination.  The laws are not designed to protect the dogs, they are not designed to keep the community safe.  They are there to target a group of dogs that officials feel need special monitoring and regulation based on nothing more than a gut feeling.

The issue is set for discussion on October 22nd  meeting of the Riverside City Council meeting, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., City Hall, 3900 Main St., Riverside.

Residents can find their City Council representatives on the cities website.

 

Waterloo Iowa officials are discussing breed based restrictions

Officials in Waterloo Iowa are discussing drafting an ordinance that would target pit bulls.

This follows an attack in which two people were injured.  Three dogs were loose and unsupervised when the attack occurred on a public street. An older woman, 65, and a 13-year-old boy were injured in the attack.

According to the reports one dog was shot.  This dog is identified by officials as a pit bull.  The two other dogs were captured and are being held.  One is reported to be a Boston Terrier mix, the other is also reported as a pit bull.  The owner of the two dogs in the custody of animal control has been found.  The dog that was shot was a known stray in the area, though officials are attempting to find an owner.

The female victim and her husband have stated publicly that they do not blame the breed of the dog, but rather the way the dogs were being managed, or in the case of the stray, not managed, in the community.  A suggestion of stiffer penalties for attacks was made by the victims husband.

Loose dogs and strays are nothing new for Waterloo.  Reports of loose dogs in the community, as well as attacks by loose dogs, can be found going several years back.  The most commonly reported incidents are related to unsupervised dogs.

The Mayor has been quoted saying that the draft will be a “very restrictive ordinance for pit bulls.”  At this time there is no clarification as to any aspects of the ordinance because it is in the discussion phase.  There have been no statements made by officials to indicate which direction they may be leaning. The only details that have been discussed publicly are micro-chipping and a special registration.

The Mayor went out of his way to mention that there are some places that ban pit bulls.  This seems to be a common tactic used to soften suggested restrictions.  Another communities implementation of a ban does not lessen the amount of money that will be wasted in Waterloo with a breed discriminatory law. It does not lessen the fact that responsible owners are the only ones penalized by these laws, or that they inevitably end up failing in their primary objective, public safety.  The lesser of two evils is still evil.  Yes, some places ban pit bulls.  However, more than 90% of municipalities in the US have no breed discriminatory restrictions at all.

The agenda for the work session is titled “Potential New Ordinance Pertaining to Pit Bulls.”

Residents and locals: It is important that you reach out now with effective alternatives to breed discriminatory laws.  You can also use Best Friends Animal Society’s fiscal calculator to show how much an ordinance like this would cost the city and the tax payers. You can find this at http://bestfriends.guerrillaeconomics.net/

Council contact information: CouncilmanHart@mediacombb.net, david.jones.ward1@gmail.com, Carolyn.cole@vgm.com, harcarge@aol.com, rjgrx@aol.com, sschmitt@schmitthouse.com

Councilman Ron Welper does not have an available e-mail address. You may reach him via the City Clerk by including a request for the correspondence to be forwarded to him.  City Clerk: suzy.schares@waterloo-ia.org

Chippewa Falls Wisconsin is looking into a breed ban

Last week a resident of Chippewa Falls approached officials with a story about how her cat was killed by a dog she identified as a “pit bull.”

In response to that officials are looking into a breed ban.

The spurring incidents pose some serious questions for the community about how to increase public safety but a ban is not an effective use of time or resources. Time and time again, cities with breed bans do not see a decrease in attacks by dogs. Often the corollary is the exact opposite, that attacks increase due to the diversion of funds in animal control. Any time money is taken away from addressing the true issues involving dangerous dogs the community suffers.

If Chippewa Falls were to institute a ban it would end up costing the tax payers a minimum of $21,000 a year, per the Best Friends Animal Societies fiscal calculator.  This may not seem like a lot of money to some but when put into the perspective that the town has a population of just over 13,500, and the fact that one instance of litigation could easily triple that number, everyone in the community loses.

Residents and locals: The next council meeting is April 16th at 6:30 PM. It is unclear when this specific issue will be discussed but a topic does not have to be on the agenda for the public to speak on it. Please attend the meeting to politely offer opposition to a breed specific law. Remember that the best way to engage officials is by offering alternatives. One alternative would be the NAIA Model Animal Control Ordinance. One of the most powerful things we, as advocates can do is offer solutions along with the opposition.

All the Council members contact information can be found here.

Contact information for Committee 3, which deals with public safety issues:

Michael Hanke
Email:mhanke@chippewafalls-wi.gov

C W King
Email:cwking@chippewafalls-wi.gov

Bill Hicks
Email:bhicks@chippewafalls-wi.gov

West Memphis Arkansas may consider breed specific law

Last week the West Memphis Arkansas City Council received a report that singled out pit bulls as the majority offender in bites for 2012.  According to the report there were 28 reported bites and 16 belonged to what was deemed to be pit bulls. Of those 16 bites, 13 were reported to have taken place on the dog owners property.  As with all dog bites, children under 14 were the most likely to be bit.  They claim the dogs were under the control of the owners at the time of the incidents but do not specify what constitutes control.  There is also no numbers given as to the general population of what they consider pit bulls, giving no base for statistical analysis.

Councilman Tracy Catt reported to Channel 3 News that this report “is the reason behind a coming ordinance, although he did not elaborate on the ordinance specifics.”

We have found out that they are in fact planning on banning pit bulls.

Please reach out respectfully to offer breed neutral alternatives. Enforcement of current dangerous dog laws, leash law enforcement and increased penalties for violations for ALL dog owners have proven to reduce the number of dog related incidents where ever they are being enforced. Though there is a directory on the city website none of the councilors appear to have any contact information available.

The next council meeting is March 21st. Though there is no date set for the ordinance to be introduced it would be beneficial for residents to attend this meeting, as well as any others, to voice their opposition to breed specific laws.