Category Archives: Court Cases

Lawsuit filed to challenge the legality of Pawtucket RI’s breed ban

Earlier this year legislation was passed in Rhode Island that prohibits any municipality from enacting a breed discriminatory law.

Pawtucket is one of the places in Rhode Island with a breed discriminatory law.  A ban on pit bulls and dogs resembling pit bulls, was enacted in 1994.   As is typical with places that have long-standing breed bans with entrenched officials, Pawtucket has been lauding the success of their ban for sometime.  However, a simple google search brings plenty of results of dog related issues.  Even officials assertion that bites by targeted dogs have been reduced is questionable considering that with a ban there should be no attacks by targeted dogs and many people have dogs that are labeled as other mixes instead of being put under the legislative catch-all “pit bull.”

Any attacks go to the fact that there are those in the community who do not operate control over their dogs, and those that do.  The ones who do not, get attention.  The ones who do, slide under the radar living peacefully with their targeted dogs.

As soon as the bill began making the rounds, officials from Pawtucket went on the offensive.

During the passage of this legislation officials from Pawtucket tried to derail the process in several ways.  They tried, unsuccessfully, to have the bill voted down.  They tried, unsuccessfully, to amend the bill to include a grandfather clause that would allow municipalities with existing laws to keep them and, finally, they tried a plea to the Governor to not sign the bill into law, which was also unsuccessful.

The legislation passed comfortably and the Governor then signed it.

The failed attempt to include a grandfather clause is particularly interesting.  Pawtucket is now arguing that the legislation does not affect places with breed discriminatory laws already in place.  If it was the intent of the law makers to allow places to keep existing breed discriminatory laws, the grandfather clause amendment would have been accepted.  However, the legislation as worded does not specify if it is retroactive, leaving the issue open to litigation.

One resident is now challenging the assertion that Pawtucket is within their rights to keep their ban.  A suit has been filed on behalf of Albert Alix, who was issued a citation for a violation of the ban after the dog, Chubs, escaped the yard.  There was no bite that occurred.

It is the city’s position that, because the law does not say that it is retroactive, they are allowed to keep their ban.  Officials have admitted that the legislation is not clear and that their ban is open to legal challenge.

Mark Morse, the lawyer representing Alix and Defenders of Animals, a local animal welfare group,  stated in an interview that the suit asks the court to declare the city ordinance invalid because it is inconsistent with the new state law the prohibits breed discrimination.

This case will clarify the law, unless legislators address the issue before then.

Either way, we will be watching the case carefully and updating as needed.

Clay Alabama agrees to not enforce breed ban

Clay Alabama officials have agreed, under the advice of their attorney and under the threat of a lawsuit, to not enforce their breed ban.

An injunction and lawsuit alleging many constitutional violations was filed on July 30th.  The first hearing was set for the 19th of August.  This hearing has been postponed pending an agreement that was struck between the lawyers representing both sides.

In the agreement, the city of Clay has agreed to not enforce their ban and to make arrangements to meet the concerns addressed in the lawsuit.  A time frame for action to be taken has been set for September 15th.  A status report must be given by that date.

From the Clay agreement,  “the parties are in agreement to Work cooperatively in an effort to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution to the claim involved herein.”

This means that both the city officials and attorneys will be working together to redraft the ordinance in a way that will satisfy all the parties involved.

This does not mean that the ban is repealed at this time or that the fight is over in Clay.  The possibility for the lawsuit to move forward is still there, should officials not be willing to remove all breed discriminatory aspects of the ordinance.

Springville Alabama was also looking into a possible breed ban and have postponed discussions at this time.  It remains to be seen what effect this will have on the situation in Springville.

We will update accordingly as the process continues or you can follow what is happening in Clay by visiting Fight BSL in Clay at http://fightbslinclay.org/home.html.

Clay Alabama residents file a motion for injunction against breed ban

The first step has been made to challenge Clay Alabama’s recently passed breed ban in court.

A motion for preliminary injunction has been filed to stop the enforcement of the ban.  Resident’s have until August 3rd to register their dogs.  This would mark the beginning of enforcement of the ban.

The full text of the motion can be viewed here.

The complaint alleges that the ban was passed in violation of Alabama’s open meeting laws.  Under that law, officials must give interested parties a certain amount of time to be able to participate in the process.  Since the ordinance was brought forward and passed in one meeting, and was drafted sometime in the 5 days between the spurring incident and the ordinances passage, it appears that this is a direct violation of that law.

Other allegations are that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution is violated regarding due process, a deprivation of property, use and enjoyment of said property for several different reasons and a violation of the 5th and 6th Amendments to the Constitution for several reasons.  The irrebuttable presumption portion of the ordinance, discussed below, being one of them.  Overall the complaint is well worth the read.  The details of the complaint are extremely comprehensive.

Efforts to raise funds were focused on the date of registration in the hopes that enough money could be raised to prevent residents from having to register their dogs.  The issue is difficult because once a person registers their dog there is then a irrebuttable presumption that the dog is a “pit bull” regardless of whether or not the dog actually is.  Once the dog is registered, residents would not be able to contest the designation in the future, say if they get a DNA test or other evidence comes up that shows that dog is not a pit bull.

Municipal breed discriminatory laws have never been challenged in Alabama.  The timing of the injunction is very apt, coming on the heels of a recommendation from the City Attorney to change the law to be breed neutral.  There has been no action so far to do so.  Only talk, and some residents have talked about opposition from certain officials to going breed neutral.  The Mayor has said that he wants to expand the law to include more breeds but not all breeds.  He mentions “11 breeds” restricted by insurance companies in a recent article.

In a separate article the Council cites a lack of legal challenge to Center Point Alabama’s ordinance.  “The council made mention of Center Point’s ordinance, a five-year old ordinance that bans pit bulls, and that city not having legal issues with residents in that time.”

The Council will now learn the hard way how expensive it can be to violate people’s rights.  Hopefully, they will do the right thing to avoid litigation and repeal the ban.

You can view the filing papers for the Clay Alabama injunction here.

If anyone would like to contribute to the legal fund there is a fundraiser here.

Previous alerts:

http://stopbsl.org/2013/07/16/clay-alabama-residents-mounting-legal-challenge-to-ban/

http://stopbsl.org/2013/06/03/clay-alabama-passes-pit-bull-ban/

Maryland Legislature Proposes Bill to Reverse Solesky Decision

The Maryland legislature has proposed a bill that would reverse the Solesky v. Tracey Court of Appeals’ ruling finding pit bulls “inherently dangerous.” The bill is breed neutral, and it doesn’t hold landlords liable for tenant dog attacks. The reality is that the Solesky decision has resulted in landlords refusing to rent to pit bull owners.

The bill limits liability, allows owners to prove there was no prior evidence of violent behavior, and allows for defense of the animal’s behavior.

A hearing will be held on HB78 on January 30, 2013.

The Senate companion bill, SB160, has not yet been set for a hearing, but it looks to be in line to be heard at or around the same date as the House bill.

If approved, the bill will pass as emergency legislation and take effect immediately.

MARYLAND RESIDENTS: Please reach out to your respective legislators and encourage them to support the compromise bill which would reverse the Maryland Court of Appeals’ ruling and return the state to the law as it existed before the Court’s ruling.

Residents of Maryland can find their legislators here.

We have discussed the twisted legal journey of  Solesky v. Tracey in depth here. As soon as we can get a copy of the bill, we will publish and analyze it here on StopBSL. Stay tuned.

 

MANCHESTER, MISSOURI – Board of Aldermen Repeal Pit Bull Ban with Unanimous Vote

We reported in August that a Manchester resident had filed a suit against the City of Manchester on the grounds of violation of her constitutional rights because she had received at least four citations because of her dog.

Last night, the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to repeal the cities pit bull ordinance, adopting instead a non-breed specific dangerous dog law.

According to City Manager, Andy Hixson, the revision to the existing ordinance removed the term ‘pit bull’.  The changes are effective immediately and all vicious dog designations will be determined by the individual dogs behavior rather than breed or appearance.

 

Oklahoma – Whispers of BSL on State Level

UPDATE:  In late breaking news -

“It’s a flawed animal! Frankly, I believe it belongs in a zoo.”  said Representative Paul Wesselhoft tells KOKH-TV Fox 25 in an evening report.

Wesselhoft authored a state bill a few years ago targeting pit bull owners.  The measure gained no support.  Today, he’s inspired to re-introduce measures that would impose tougher punishments for pit bull owners.

We will monitor this situation, if the measure appears to gain any ground at all we’ll provide you with contact information.

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In 2011, Midwest City OK’s BSL was struck down by OK Supreme Court after a resident sued.  The long standing ban was found unconstitutional.

Wednesday night an Oklahoma City woman was alledgedly fatally wounded by her granddaughters pit bull after it broke free from a cage during a severe thunder storm.

Now, another resident that claims he was attacked 2 years ago by yet another dog is speaking out in support of state law that would ‘make sure it never happens again.’

Elliot says, “I think  you have a right to own a pit bull dog, I’m not saying that you don’t.  But the dog has a propensity to be more aggressive by nature.”  Elliot thinks pit bull owners should have a special license to own one and he believe there should be tougher punishments for people who let their pit bulls run loose.

According to Okalohoma state law §4-46

“B. Potentially dangerous or dangerous dogs may be regulated through local, municipal and county authorities, provided the regulations are not breed specific. Nothing in this act shall prohibit such local governments from enforcing penalties for violation of such local laws.”

Per the State Supreme Court’s Ruling in March, 2011, ‘Home Rule’ does not provide any local government to enact BSL or supersede the state law.

“Pit Bull Attack Victim Wants Law

Oklahoma City Police continue to look into what caused a dog to attack and kill a woman in her own apartment Wednesday night. Police say Nellie Davis died after her granddaughter’s pit bull broke out of its kennel and attack her. Investigators believe a thunderstorm that night set the dog off.

Now another victim of a pit bull attack is coming forward to share his story. He hopes his story helps change state law.

Cecil Elliott says he was attacked by a pit bull two years ago. Elliott says the dog attacked while he was walking through his neighborhood. When Elliott heard about how Nellie Davis died from a dog attack, he says it brought back memories of his experience. Now he wants to make sure it never happens again. Eliott thinks pit bull owners should have a special license to own one and he believes there should be tougher punishments for people who let their pit bulls run loose….”

http://www.okcfox.com/newsroom/top_stories/videos/kokh_vid_7216.shtml

Oklahoma – Whispers of BSL on State Level

In 2011, Midwest City OK’s BSL was struck down by OK Supreme Court after a resident sued.  The long standing ban was found unconstitutional.

Wednesday night an Oklahoma City woman was alledgedly fatally wounded by her granddaughters pit bull after it broke free from a cage during a severe thunder storm.

Now, another resident that claims he was attacked 2 years ago by yet another dog is speaking out in support of state law that would ‘make sure it never happens again.’

Elliot says, “I think  you have a right to own a pit bull dog, I’m not saying that you don’t.  But the dog has a propensity to be more aggressive by nature.”  Elliot thinks pit bull owners should have a special license to own one and he believe there should be tougher punishments for people who let their pit bulls run loose.

According to Okalohoma state law §4-46

“B. Potentially dangerous or dangerous dogs may be regulated through local, municipal and county authorities, provided the regulations are not breed specific. Nothing in this act shall prohibit such local governments from enforcing penalties for violation of such local laws.”

Per the State Supreme Court’s Ruling in March, 2011, ‘Home Rule’ does not provide any local government to enact BSL or supersede the state law.

“Pit Bull Attack Victim Wants Law

Oklahoma City Police continue to look into what caused a dog to attack and kill a woman in her own apartment Wednesday night. Police say Nellie Davis died after her granddaughter’s pit bull broke out of its kennel and attack her. Investigators believe a thunderstorm that night set the dog off.

Now another victim of a pit bull attack is coming forward to share his story. He hopes his story helps change state law.

Cecil Elliott says he was attacked by a pit bull two years ago. Elliott says the dog attacked while he was walking through his neighborhood. When Elliott heard about how Nellie Davis died from a dog attack, he says it brought back memories of his experience. Now he wants to make sure it never happens again. Eliott thinks pit bull owners should have a special license to own one and he believes there should be tougher punishments for people who let their pit bulls run loose….”

http://www.okcfox.com/newsroom/top_stories/videos/kokh_vid_7216.shtml