Tag Archives: breed specific legislation

Medford Oregon officials reject breed discriminatory law

Medford, Oregon, officials have rejected the idea of a breed discriminatory law.

The idea was initially raised by Councilor Karen Blair after a complaint of dog on dog attack in the city.

Councilor Blair had made some ill-informed statements to the media in support of a law that would have targeted dogs deemed to be pit bulls.  Blair stated that, “There are few people that can handle a dog that strong, particularly when its jaws naturally lock.”  (referencing what she called “pit bulls”)

As officials were examining possible changes to their dangerous dog laws, they accepted public input from many different sections of the community.   All presenters were professional, respectful and well versed in the latest peer reviewed studies that all state that breed is not a factor in attacks.

The first study session was widely publicized as one that considered a breed ban.  Information directly from the council showed that this option was discussed, but a large part of the conversation had centered around the problems in enforcing such a law and the failures of breed discriminatory laws to improve public safety.

Additional information from those communicating with the Council also showed the direction of the conversation was a positive one.  Correspondence indicated that only the one council member had shown any interest in such an ordinance.   The police advisory committee was formed to examine the cities options for strengthening the cities dangerous dog laws, and not to draft a breed ban, as was implied by media accounts.  Because one member of the council was interested in a ban, this took precedent in the conversation as presented by the media, overshadowing the rest of the conversation.

At the last police advisory committee meeting, held this past Tuesday, Medford police said they will propose an ordinance that would target problem dog owners and that a breed ban will not be considered.

One change being considered is increasing penalties for people who are not managing their dogs properly in the community but aside from that there are no real details as to what the proposal could contain.

The advisory committee heard many different options during their meetings.  Councilor Bob Strosser was the council representative on the committee.  Also on the committee were representatives from the local animal control, representatives of the legal interests of the town, as well as the local police department.  The committee had met several times.

During these meetings the legal representative raised concerns about the legal ramifications of a breed discriminatory law.  He recommended against a breed based law due to the cost and legal issues.

The animal control representative supported the idea of resources and programs to help dog owners in the community.  Behind the scenes, local advocates have offered help with such resources, such as spay/neuter, affordable training and licensing campaigns to bring more residents into compliance.

Councilor Strosser brought several breed neutral laws to the committee for consideration, including the recently passed Baker City law.  Baker City passed a comprehensive breed neutral law after some discussion of a breed discriminatory law.  During the Baker City meetings officials rejected information claiming one breed or type of dog as more dangerous than others as inherently biased and factually unfounded.

Interestingly, Medford is yet another case where members of the council roundly rejected the “statistics” of the pro-BDL lobby, calling into question their obvious bias and lack of reliability.

Reason prevails.  The facts are on the side of breed neutral laws, and slowly but surely we are seeing officials reject the cherry picked, media based statistics in favor of peer-reviewed and verified information.

Medford officials have some fantastic ordinances at their disposal to help craft their new law.  We look forward to seeing the results of the continuation of the rational discourse that has taken place thus far.

Thank you Cheryl Huerta, from the Portland Pit Bull Parade,  for the additional information on this issue.

Lake Elsinore California passes breed discriminatory spay/neuter law

Officials in Lake Elsinore, California, passed a breed discriminatory mandatory spay/neuter law at their meeting last night.

Citing high shelter populations of the targeted population of dogs, officials claimed the need for such a measure.

It is no coincidence that Lake Elsinore is located in Riverside County, which recently passed a breed discriminatory spay/neuter law.  When a county passes a law like this it usually applies only to the unincorporated areas of the county.  It is up to the incorporated areas to determine if they are going to pass a similar ordinance.  This is what we are seeing in Riverside County now.  First with the passage of the law in Riverside City and now with Lake Elsinore.

The law is the mirror of the county law the requires all targeted dogs the age of four months or older be altered.  Officials are passing these laws with little if any understanding of the effects of them.   There is mounting evidence that pediatric spay/neuter is detrimental to the health of dogs.  There is also substantial evidence that these laws increase shelter populations of targeted dogs, doing the exact opposite of what they are claiming is the goal of the law.

The ordinance is said to have exemptions for assistance dogs as well as “certified” breeders.  The fines for non-compliance $100 for a first offense, up to $200 for the second offense, and up to $500 for the third and each subsequent offense.  There was a bare minimum of media coverage for this issue and only one dissenting vote.

As with other places that have passed these laws, the spoken intention of the law is quite different from what the rhetoric implies.  For example, in Lake Elsinore a staff report stated that, “The Department of Animal Services for Riverside County has found that Pit Bull and Pit Bull mixes significantly impact the health and safety of residents and their pets.”

Once again we are seeing an attempt to work around the California state law that prohibits all other forms of breed discriminatory laws.  There is no doubt that if officials had the opportunity to enact some other form of restrictions, they would have tried to do so.

Officials have enacted a proven failed policy under the pretense of shelter populations which will take valuable financial resources away from the real issues that need to be addressed in the community.

Rhode Island HB 7630 would allow a single town to enact a breed discriminatory law

A bill has been introduced in the Rhode Island state legislature that would amend the current state law that prohibits breed discriminatory laws.

The bill was introduced to allow the city of Warwick to enact a breed discriminatory spay/neuter law.

HB 7630 would add the following language to current state law that prohibits breed discriminatory laws.  Breed discriminatory laws would be prohibited  “…except in those instances where the rule, regulation or ordinance pertains to spaying or neutering of pit bulls and staffordshire bull terriers located in the city of Warwick, and provided such rule, regulation or ordinance shall not apply to licensed breeders of such dogs.”

When the current state law that prohibited breed discriminatory laws was passed, it was unclear what the intention of the bill was, regarding existing ordinances in the text of the bill.  The bills sponsors, however stated very clearly that they intended it to apply retroactively.  Pawtucket took issue with the law, saying that their existing breed discriminatory ordinance should be allowed to stay.  Warwick was another town that had an existing breed discriminatory law.

Warwick’s old law was a prohibition on owning a targeted dog unless it was altered, or the person had a license for breeding issued by the director on the local animal shelter.  Targeted dogs included American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, “or a dog that is a mix of the two breeds.”

It appears that Pawtucket is going the way of litigation in an attempt to keep their old law, but Warwick is attempting to get this specific legislative exemption.

The amending of a state law to allow one town an exemption is bizarre, to say the least.  The bills sponsor has already said that the bill was intended to act retroactively, and this is Warwick’s attempt at being about to keep their old breed discriminatory law.  Four of the 5 sponsors of the bills are located in Warwick, the fifth is from Providence.  Clearly city officials are asking for this from their representatives.

The bill has been assigned to the House Municipal Government Committee.

Warwick residents should reach out to their representative and ask them to pull the bill.  Be factual and polite, we have years of the failure of such laws to back up the opposition.

Rhode Island residents:  Please reach out to the committee, particularly if one of the members of the committee is your specific representative.  The state law was passed to protect the property rights of all residents of Rhode Island, not those residents who don’t live in Warwick.

rep-ackerman@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-amore@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-bennett@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-costantino@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-desimone@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-hearn@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-johnston@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-kazarian@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-lima@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-marshall@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-newberry@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-ogrady@rilin.state.ri.us

South Dakota bill end prohibit breed discriminatory laws on the state level goes to the Governor

The South Dakota bill to prohibit breed discriminatory laws in the state, SB 75, passed the full House.

The vote was 41-28, for the bill.  SB 75 now moves to the Governor’s desk.  The Governor can either sign the bill or veto it.  If he signs it, the South Dakota will become the 18th state to outlaw breed discrimination on the state level.

This bill was passed through the process at an incredible speed.   SB 75 had its first reading on January 23rd.   The bill received a favorable vote by the Senate committee of 6-1 on January 31st and was moved to the full Senate.

The February 4th vote by the full Senate was very close.   The bill barely passed with 19 votes for and 16 against.  There was a lot of talk of opposition to the premise of the bill, but as we have seen in the past, there were some whose issue was states power versus municipal rights to self governance.

The bill comfortably passed the House committee on February 27th with a 10 to 3 vote for the bill to be moved to the full House.  On March 4th, the bill had its final House vote of 41-28.

The text of the bill is very simple.

Section 1. That chapter 40-34 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:   No local government, as defined in § 6-1-12, may enact, maintain, or enforce any ordinance, policy, resolution, or other enactment that is specific as to the breed or perceived breed of a dog. This section does not impair the right of any local government unit to enact, maintain, or enforce any form of regulation that applies to all dogs.”

It appears that this bill may nullify existing ordinances.  The fact that it specifics that a municipality may not maintain or enforce a breed discriminatory law points to a retro active application.

We will not know for sure until the bill is signed and applied.  Some times the language is too vague to really know the intent of the legislators until the issue of existing ordinance is raised after the bill comes into effect.

South Dakota residents should reach out the Governor Dennis Daugaard via the states website and ask that he sign SB 75 into law.

Missouri HB 1116 to prohibit breed discrimination on the state level passes committee

A bill in Missouri that would prohibit municipalities from enacting breed discriminatory laws has been heard by the House judiciary Committee.

HB 1116 is very simple.  The bill seeks to add an amendment to the current state code that reads: “273.195. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to limit in any manner the authority of any village, town, or city to prohibit dogs from running at large or to further control or regulate dogs within its boundaries; provided that, no such ordinances, orders, policies, or regulations are specific to breed.”

Missouri HB 1116 has been passed out of the House Judiciary Committee.   The committee voted 13-2 for the bill.  HB 1116 now goes to the full house for a vote.    If it passes the full House, the bill will move to the Senate side, where it will go through the same process of committees and hearings by the Senate.  If it passes the full Senate the bill will then need to be signed by the Governor.

The legislative process is a long one, but it is important that residents continue to contact their Senators and Representatives expressing support for this bill.

There is currently no date set for the next reading.

Some have said that there are some legislators who have received correspondence against the bill, so it is important that those residents that support the bill reach out to their legislators and ask them to support it as well.

Missouri residents can find their specific legislators in the Senate here.  House representatives can be found here.

This post has been edited to reflect that there is no second committee hearing, as was reported by a local organization.  The bill is moving to the full House so residents should contact their Representatives to ask them to support this bill.

Georgia state level concerns

The issue of Georgia and what is happening there has been very much the topic of conversation recently.

At this point in time, there is no chance of a breed discriminatory law being introduced on the state level for the 2014 legislative session.  The deadline for filing bills has passed, and since nothing has been filed, the issue is not of concern for this year.

There is a long past to the issue of a potential breed discriminatory law in Georgia.  Most recently, the issue we are seeing with Representative Waites has taken some strange turns.

In early 2013, a very young child crawled out of their home and was attacked by seven dogs.  The two-year old child crawled out of a dog door, while unsupervised and as a result, died.

Rep. Waites had some contact with the family of this particular victim, and the conversation about breed discriminatory laws began.  Local advocates were quick to act, meeting with Rep. Waites to both oppose the idea of any breed discriminatory laws, as well as to offer help is crafting breed neutral laws.

The initial discovery was that, as is typical with many legislators, there was very little understanding of what dangerous dog laws need to contain in order to be effective.  It is not uncommon that those who seek to make these laws know little about them.  It is not something that many people deal with on a daily basis.  This is why it is important that legislators hear from those who are well versed in the civil, criminal and constitutional issues of dangerous dog laws.

What we do see with some legislators when dealing with breed discriminatory issues, is usually a base line understanding of which dogs are typically targeted.  We have been told that the Representative did not know that her own dog was considered to be dangerous in many locations, by insurance companies and designated as rescue only by an organization in her own district.

The results of these preliminary conversations were that the Rep. said she would no longer pursue a breed discriminatory law.  A note on Rep, Waites’ Facebook page from late April 2013, states that any law would be breed neutral.

From the note:

“Instead of proposing an all-out ban of dangerous dogs or on pit bulls, which could be seen as infringing on the individual freedoms of responsible pet owners across the state, I am merely proposing that those who choose to own violent and dangerous animals that have a history of violence be held responsible, considering the type of damage these animals are capable of inflicting,” said Rep. Waites. “While I am very committed to the passage of comprehensive dangerous dog legislation, I am also interest in ensuring that responsible pet owners are not unfairly targeted.” 

“I don’t think outlawing pit bulls is the way to go. However, there must be stronger laws on the books governing attacks by aggressive dogs, and stiff penalties to go with them for the owners of the dogs.   When people start seeing dog owners go to jail for irresponsible behavior, they’ll start thinking twice about keeping a potentially dangerous animal for a pet,” Added Rep. Waites.”

This line of discussion continued through June of 2013.  It wasn’t until the mother of another young child that was killed while unsupervised approached Rep. Waites that the conversation about breed discriminatory laws began again.

There are two videos on the Representative’s Facebook page.  The first, from December 12th 2013, is one where Rep. Waites has a conversation with the mother of the second victim from 2013.   During this, the Representative states very clearly that she wants to seek “bully breed” legislation on the state level.

The latest official statement made is from February 2014 video in which Rep. Waites addressing the House with a statement.  In this statement she urges the House to pass a law that would make the breeding of “pit bull animals to only licensed holders.”  This is language used frequently when a breed discriminatory mandatory spay neuter law is being discussed.  We have been told that the Representative has said on numerous occasions, even directly after saying she was in opposition to a breed discriminatory law, that a breed discriminatory mandatory spay/neuter law was of interest.  She seemed to have a particular interest in breeders specifically in these conversations.

She also states in this video that “every day a child is fatally injured by animals that were simply never ever meant to be pets.”  Not only is this statement a clear indicator of the personal bias involved in this, but it is also a complete falsehood.  Each year there are roughly 30 fatal attacks by dogs.  This number has remained steady despite both the rise in the human population and the rise in the dog population.  While each situation is tragic, there are numerous co-occurring factors involved in fatal attacks, but the breed or type of the dog is not one of them, shown once again by the latest peer-reviewed study published by the JAVMA.

This statement was accompanied by a rally, attended by roughly 15 people, including out-of-state interests.

The situation will continue to be monitored.  It has been made clear that the legislative desired of Rep. Waites changes depending on who is being spoken to, so only time will tell what, if any, actual action will be taken in the 2015 legislative session.

Representative Waites is currently up for re-election and is, at this time, running unopposed.

Thank you Jo for the additional information regarding this issue.

Albany Georgia tables breed discriminatory ordinance

Following the first vote, in which a strict breed discriminatory law was passed in Albany Georgia, support from officials began to wane.

If the proposal had been passed unanimously, officials could have waived the second reading and passed the proposal in one night.  The vote came in at one short of unanimous and was scheduled for the next vote.

This began the back slide of support for the proposal.  Many in the community and from organizations dealing with these issues began reaching out to the commission to express opposition to BDL and offer alternatives to the proposal between the first and second meetings.

There were several issues being raised, from the difficulty of enforcement, to concerns that the ordinance as drafted was to going to be too much of a financial burden on people.

After that first vote, the council had 2 new members take their seats.  Both of these council members were opposed to the proposal.  “Commissioner Coleman and Ward III Commissioner B. J. Fletcher took office after the ordinance was introduced.  Neither likes the existing proposal because of cost to owners and questions about enforcement.”  Additionally, Fletcher stated that any law they enact should be “concise” so that it is able to be enforced.

One council person felt that the ordinance should be passed and then revisited to be amended later on.  Jon Howard said there should be changes made to the proposal but wanted to pass something first and make changes when they see what is and what is not working.

At the last meeting, the final vote was to be held, but instead the commission voted to table the proposal.  Usually when a proposal is tabled, a date is set for it to be considered again.  This is not the case in Albany.  There was no discussion whether this would be considered again, and when that may be.  According to news reports, the commissioners are considering the proposal dead at this time.

This does not mean that the proposal is dead, however.  Until it is officially killed off, the proposal is still possible in the future.

Two council members are staunchly for a breed discriminatory law.  Additionally, one is for a breed discriminatory law because he knows of backyard breeders and some how thinks that the proposal will end that.

There are several important things to note about Albany’s Animal Control.  They do not have their own facility and pay the local humane society to house dogs.  This proposal would put an extreme burden of both the finances of the city, as well as the finances of the local Humane Society.

Records are not kept in any adequate way.  The commissioners had used the statistic that there were 48 bites attributed to “pit bulls” in 2013.  These are both animal and human combined.  The most recent census data from Albany puts the population in 2012 at just over 77,400.  There was no other data supplied about the numbers of other bites, though the indication is that there are many other bites that need to be addressed in the city and the 48 is a minority of incidents.

Georgia had passed a state level dangerous dog law that dealt with many issues some time ago, which was supposed to have been incorporated into the local municipalities by now.  Albany has not yet done so.  In fact, though there is a breed neutral dangerous dog law on the books, there is no classification for a potentially dangerous dog, nor is there any particular nuance or deterrent in the current ordinance.

Groups in the area are working to change this, so that Albany can strengthen the dangerous dog laws and be able to address the real cause of dangerous dogs in the community and come into compliance with the state law.

One group, Stubby’s Heroes, has provided substantial information to address the various issues being experienced by the community.  They have offered breed neutral alternatives and are working to bring in those who can help Albany comply with state law.

At this point, there will be no breed discriminatory law in Albany.  The situation still bears watching into the future.  The best bet will be for officials to enact one of the alternatives offered so that all dangerous dogs in the community are addressed, and responsible owners aren’t penalized for the actions of the few.

Thank you Jo for the information and update regarding this issue.