Tag Archives: BSL

Moreauville, LA, passes breed ban: Demands all current dogs be removed

On October 13th the small town of Moreauville, Louisiana, passed a ban on pit bull type dogs and Rottweilers.

The city has a little over 900 residents and no online presence.

Officials claim that they passed the ban at the request of  several residents.  These residents approached the council saying that they were unable to walk in certain neighborhoods because “these dogs were basically running along town.”  Alderman Penn Lemoine said the ordinance was enacted to “appease” these residents.

Officials say that there have been attacks but none have been documented.  This begs the question, what sort of animal control is in place, or was in place, before the ban?  Was it being enforced?  At the very least, it is clear that any laws that were in place were not being enforced.  We are attempting to get a copy of any pertinent legislation for review, but at this time, it is unclear if there are any laws on the books, or if there is an animal control agent tasked with enforcement.

The law does not have a grandfather clause.  This means that every single dog that matches the targeted type is at risk of being confiscated and killed.  A letter was sent out to residents saying that they must get rid of their dogs by December 1st or they will be confiscated and taken to a “veterinary clinic for further disposition.”

letter to remove dogs moreauville la

The city is threatening to remove people’s dogs and have them killed.  According to a local report, when the police chief was asked what would happen if dogs are not turned over voluntarily, the resident questioning the chief was told that, “They would come and get the dog and the dog would be disposed of and we would be fined.”

When pressed to clarify what “disposition” meant, Alderman Penn Lemoine refused, saying, “I’d rather not elaborate on that.”  Apparently, city officials are fine with passing a law that takes away and kills people’s dogs because of the way they look, but they are not comfortable talking about it publicly.

Something the Pro-BSL lobby claims all the time is that a ban doesn’t mean that dogs are taken away from their homes and killed.  They claim that these are scare tactics used by “pit bull advocates.”  They claim that all current owned dogs are allowed to live out the rest of their lives under a ban and that it is just new dogs that are not allowed.  We know from many places that this is not true, and this letter to owners of pit bulls and Rottweilers is just more evidence of that.  We at StopBSL would like a statement from BSL proponents, clarifying what exactly they mean, in the face of this evidence, that it is only a “scare tactic.”

Families with targeted dogs are seeking support to be able to keep their dogs.  There is a question as to the legality of taking property that was obtained legally at the time of the legislations passage (in this case dogs are considered property) and “disposing” of it.  There are also questions about the legality of the ordinance in general, though Alderman Lemoine seems to think it is legal.  Preliminary review from experts in the field of dangerous dog law disagree, pointing to numerous constitutional and due process issues.

Officials are claiming that if there is enough of an outcry, they might revisit the issue on the December 8th meeting.  This is completely insufficient.  The deadline for the targeted dogs is a week before the next meeting.

RESIDENTS AND LOCALS:  It is incredibly important that members of the council hear your voices.  The passage of the ban was kept relatively quiet until now.  It is important that people are heard but all communication must be professional, respectful and factual.  We know this is an emotional issue, but anger and vitriol achieves nothing except to alienate officials in a time when people need their voices to be heard the most.  Offer alternatives, such as containment laws and point out the many failures of breed discriminatory laws.

Moreauville City Hall:
Address: 9898 Bayou Des Glaises St, Moreauville, LA 71355
Phone:(318) 985-2338

Fosters are being lined up so that the targeted dogs can have a safe place to go, if needed, while this issue is resolved.  If you are local and outside the city limits of Moreauville, and can foster, please send a message to www.facebook.com/RepealBSLMoreauville.

One family affected by the ban has set up a Facebook page that can be followed. www.facebook.com/savingzeusybaby

Camdenton, Missouri may head to lawsuit over breed ban

The city of Camdenton, Missouri, heard a request to review their long-standing pit bull ban yesterday at the board meeting, along with a request to dismiss a citation for violation of the ban.  The request was made by Misty Brown, a woman who bought a house in town 2 weeks before she was told her dogs must be removed from the town.  The two dogs in question, Karma and Chaos, are registered American Bulldogs.

According to Brown, before closing on her house, she checked with city hall and was told by an employee that her dogs were fine because they are not pit bulls.  Despite doing her due diligence, despite American Bulldogs not being a targeted breed and despite the fact that the dogs did nothing wrong, Brown was cited under the ban after a neighbor complained about the dogs.  Brown was ticketed and told that she had to get rid of the dogs by November 12th.

The ban, which was passed in 1989, defines a “pit bull” several ways.

A pit bull may be identified as any dog which exhibits those distinguishing characteristics that substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club as described in the identification checklist which is on file in the City offices.” (amendment enacted 2011)

“1.  Staffordshire bull terrier breed of dog;
2. The American pit bull terrier breed of dog;
3. The American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog;
4.  Any mixed breed of dog which contains as an element of its breeding the breed of Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, or American pit bull terrier as to be identifiable as partially of the breed Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, or American pit bull terrier;
5.  Any dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier; and other breeds commonly known as pit bulls, pit bull dogs, or pit bull terriers, or a combination of any of these breeds.” (original law enacted 1989)

The law has 2 separate and very different standards.  The language an element of its breeding and substantially conform are used and both are different in what they mean legally.  An element means any percentage of the specified breeds.  Substantially implies over 50%.

When Brown approached the board, she asked that she be allowed to keep her dogs because they are not pit bulls and their lineage as American Bulldogs is documented and provable.  The board decided that because the registered American Bulldogs were determined to fit some of the physical description of a pit bull, that they are banned.  The board seems to think that they can define a dog’s breed however they wish, based on 8 criteria that are extremely open to interpretation.  Actually, not even 8, because a dog only has to meet 5 of the 8 criteria in order to be banned.

Aside from the fact that dogs are being targeted that are in no way a pit bull, there are numerous problems with the law.  We sent a copy of the wording to Attorney Fred Kray, founder and CEO of Pit Bulletin Legal News for an evaluation.  His response is as follows:

Fred Kray: “The problem with this ordinance is that it puts the burden of proof on the dog owner.  So, after identification, there is a rebuttal presumption-which is essentially saying that the dog owner has the burden of proving the dog is not a pit bull.  This is tantamount to getting a speeding ticket and saying that once the officer clocks you, you have the burden to prove you weren’t speeding.  No, that is not what happens.  The government must come forward and initially prove their case that the dog is a pit bull and if they don’t show up-and go forward, the owner should walk.  There is also a question of the burden of proof.  What is the standard?  Ample proof is not a standard; it is unknowable.  According to Mansour v. King, the dog owner must be told the burden of proof and the government must have the burden of going forward.”

Brown and her attorney asked the board to review the ban and the board was told by the city attorney that there is no reason to do so.  It is clear the city attorney does not know much about due process, and is perhaps not the best to be advising in this situation, as the law is clearly flawed.

Brown’s attorney stated that the ticket opens the town to legal challenge for a vague law, and it appears that they will be heading to court over the issue.

This case highlights the exact opposite of what the pro-BSL lobby claims.  They claim that only actual “pit bulls” are targeted under bans, and that other dogs are not because “everyone” can identify a pit bull.  If papers don’t dis-prove a dog is banned, then there is no short-haired dog in the community that is safe.  They also claim that dogs aren’t taken from their homes, that bans simply keep new dogs from the community.  Clearly, this is not the case.

We will continue to follow this story as it develops.

Below is the check list used to identify dogs as falling under the ordinance.  This gives a chance to see exactly how broadly these descriptions can be interpreted.

- Head is medium length, with a broad skull and very pronounced cheek muscles, a wide, deep muzzle, a well defined, moderately deep stop and strong under jaw. Viewed from the top, the head is shaped like a broad, blunt wedge.
- Eyes are round to almond shaped, are low in the skull and set far apart.
- Ears are set high. Un-cropped ears are short and usually held rose or half prick, through some hold them at full prick.
- Neck is heavy and muscular, attached to strong, muscular shoulders.
-Body is muscular, with a deep, broad chest, a wide front, deep brisket, well sprung ribs and slightly tucked loins.
-Tail is medium length and set low, think at base, tapering to a point.
-Hindquarters are well muscled, with hocks set low on the legs.
-Coat is a single coat, smooth, short and close to the skin.

 

Pawtucket Rhode Island loses battle to keep ban

When Rhode Island legislators passed a law that prohibits municipalities from enacting any breed discriminatory laws, Pawtucket officials balked.  They claimed that the law only addressed future laws, and did not apply to them because Pawtucket’s breed ban was in effect before the passage of the state law.  As a result, they continued to enforce the ban after the state law had been passed.

A man by the name of Albert Alix stepped up to take on Pawtucket’s ban.   Alix was cited under the ban after his dog, Chubs, escaped his yard.  There was no bite incident.

In late 2013, a case was filed in court, challenging Pawtucket’s ban, with The Defenders of Animals and Alix as co-plaintiffs.  The city maintained the position that they were allowed to keep their ban because the state law wasn’t expressly retroactive, while Alix’s attorney, Mark Morse, stated that the ban was invalid because of the state law.

A Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of Alix.  The judge found that the state law does supersede Pawtucket’s ban.  This means that, at this time, Pawtucket is no longer allowed to enforce their ban.  This also means that there is a precedent set against any other municipality that would attempt to continue enforcement of a breed discriminatory law.  If this ruling stands, it clarifies the state law so that it is clear that no breed discriminatory laws are allowed, regardless of when they were enacted.

It is interesting to note that Pawtucket attempted to have a grandfather clause included in the prohibition on breed discriminatory laws during the Senate committee hearings, but the grandfather clause was rejected.  This speaks to the intent of the law and legislators.  Had they intended to allow existing ordinances to be maintained, they would have expressly included the grandfather clause.  This was not the only way Pawtucket officials attempted to keep their ban.  They also tried an e-mail campaign to defeat the state law prohibiting BDL while the bill was moving through the legislative process.  That was unsuccessful as well.  The contention at the time was that reversal of the ban would make their community un-safe.

The city does have the option to appeal the decision.  At this time, the cities attorneys are waiting to see the written order, and a transcript of the proceedings before deciding whether or not to appeal.  Pawtucket was the only city to try and keep their breed discriminatory law, with active enforcement, after the state prohibition was passed.

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.

Aurora, Colorado: The good, the bad and the silver lining

November 4th, a ballot measure in Aurora, Colorado that would have repealed the ban on dogs who are over 50% “pit bull” failed to pass.

On the surface, this seems to be a disheartening loss.  A lot of hard work was put into educating the public about the ban on a shoe string budget, and hopes were high that this would be the first repeal to happen by popular vote.  Ballot measures of any kind are complex creatures, with many factors contributing to the outcome.  It was an uphill battle from the start, but, when the bottom line is examined, we come away with a message not of failure, but of hope and success.

The first issue advocates for breed neutral laws had to contend with was the time frame.  The ballot was brought up for discussion by the city council 2 months before they officially created the measure.  City council must vote to put an issue on the ballot and the language of the ballot.  This means that groups in the area had a scant 90 days to develop and deliver their message.

Repeal had been a long running discussion in the community.  The issue had seen some significant media coverage even before the ballot came up.  The media and council were told by Aurora Animal Control that the ban was working and that bites in the community had been reduced, though they neglected to provide any data.   The actual data, obtained via a request to the city attorney, tells a very different story.

Chart used with permission from ColoRADogs

Chart used with permission from ColoRADogs

A detailed analysis of the data from Brent Toellner, KC Dog Blog, shows the same story that is clearly illustrated in the above chart.  Bites have increased in Aurora, overall, by 77% since the bans inception (details provided in the link).  This pivotal fact was neglected by every single media outlet that reported on the issue.  It is very clear that animal control was presenting “facts” to support the ban, instead of those that would inform the public.

Not only was Aurora Animal Control playing the part of spin doctor to cover the bans failure at protecting residents, they have also failed at breed identification.

Image used with permission from ColoRADogs

Image used with permission from ColoRADogs

Aurora is one of the few places where DNA testing is codified in the law. Because of this, we can see exactly how good animal control is at the job of identifying “pit bulls.” 76% of the time, dogs being targeted under the ban are not covered under the wording of the law.  76% of the time, resources in the form of man hours and money are wasted on dogs that are unlucky enough to look the part.  This information was also readily available via the city attorney’s office, but, yet again, both animal control and the media neglected to mention, even once, how abysmal the breed identification track record is.

In the 90 days before the ballot due date, local groups conducted a grassroots campaign to inform the public about the ballot and the ban.  Director of ColoRADogs, Nancy Tranzow, stated that many people believed the ban only affected dogs who were actually vicious, and were unaware that dogs that had done nothing wrong were being confiscated and killed.  When it was explained how these laws impact innocent families, many people changed their opinion of the ban.  The issue of property rights did not seem to affect opinions, stated Tranzow.  This stands out because according to a focus group conducted by Luntz Global, at the behest of Best Friends Animal Society, the issue of property rights featured strongly as one of the most effective arguments.

So what happened with the ballot itself?  Aurora operates mostly on mail in ballots and voters are responsible for postage.

The language of the ballot was deceptively simple.  “Shall the people of Aurora adopt an ordinance allowing pit bulls back into their city?”  This would appear to be a good thing, particularly after the issue of the Miami ballot measure language, which was so confusing many people claimed they voted the wrong way.  Experts on the legislative process and ballot initiatives say otherwise.  Many point out that overly simple language on a complex issue leads people to make uninformed decisions.  So instead of opting out of voting on something they are not familiar with, a person will vote based on “feeling, not fact” as Councilwoman Molly Markert so aptly put it.

“It’s not about a fact, it’s about a feeling.”  Should public safety be about a feeling?  This question should not even have to be answered.  The answer should be so self-evident that the question would never have to be asked.  Unfortunately, Aurora finds itself at the mercy of feelings and not facts.  The beautiful thing about facts, however, is that they always win out in the end.

So lets look at the facts:

-Aurora’s ban had not reduced attacks.

-Those tasked with the implementation of the ban cannot identify what they are trying to keep out of their community and yet they continue to insist this thing they can’t identify is much more dangerous than other dogs just by being.

-Informal polling in mid-September showed only 24% of people were for the repeal and (according to the count at the time of this posting) 35.2% actually voted to repeal.  This percentage increase in the span of roughly 45 days is remarkable.  Though some pro-BSL blogs are saying that the vote was 22,719 to repeal the ban and 92,898 to keep the ban, this is untrue.  The official count for the measure at the time of this post is 34,284 votes for repeal vs 62,953 against.  These numbers have changed several times, with the number of votes for repeal, creeping up steadily.

Polling roughly 45 days before the vote showed 24% for repeal.  That turned into 35.2% of voters for repeal.  This is something that should be highlighted.  There were 90 days to reach a community of almost 350,000 people, a part of which had no idea that there is a ban in place.  In 45 days, advocates increased support for the repeal and not only increased support, but increased the number of people who were willing to vote to change it in a quantifiable way.  Fact, not feeling.

The repeal failed.  This is a fact.  It is also a fact that education works to change minds.  It is a fact that the people working for the repeal were effective in their methods.  They worked professionally and ethically in the face of bullying, cyber stalking and harassment by the out of state pro-BSL lobby.  They worked diligently in the face of childish name calling, liable and blatant bigotry against them as individuals by so-called victims advocates.  They stood up and spoke up for the betterment of the community and they most certainly are not stopping just because feeling won this round.

Fact will win out.

Enumclaw, WA, keeps breed ban in place

At last nights meeting in Enumclaw, Washington, officials voted to keep the current breed ban in place.

The meeting drew a great number of commenters, some from both sides of the issue, but as we have seen before, the commenters for repealing the ban, out weighed those for keeping.  There was a small contingent to keep the ban, led by a woman whose child had been attacked by a dog she identified as a “pit bull.”  Public comment lasted for over an hour.

The vote to keep the law in place was unanimous.  This is interesting considering the vote to repeal was nearly unanimous as well, with only one dissenting vote.  The official recommendation per city documentation, was to repeal the existing ban.

There is some speculation that officials did not want to act to repeal with the emotional pressure present.

Though the repeal failed to pass the second reading, officials have said that this is not the end of the discussion.  Replacing the ban with restrictions is one idea that is being looked at as well as increasing penalties for those who have dogs that attack.

The ordinance that was for discussion, not only repealed the existing ban.  It also would have strengthened the rest of the dangerous dog laws, to better protect the community from negligent owners who fail to exercise proper care and control over their dogs.  A companion to the repeal would have adopted the county animal control law, which has been updated far more recently then the cities law.

King County provides animal control for the city, and having laws that are the same is extremely important for the proper enforcement of those laws.  Disparity breeds confusion for both residents and those working in official capacity, for the county.

It is unfortunate that officials failed to provide equal recourse for all victims of dog attacks and has failed to act in a manner that would have made for more effective enforcement of Animal Control within the city.

Jurupa Valley CA rejects breed based spay/neuter law

At their last meeting, officials in Jurupa Valley, California, decided against a proposal that would require the pediatric mandatory sterilization of dogs deemed to be pit bulls.

The proposal was brought forward by Councilman Micheal Goodland.  Goodland made it very clear that this was not about shelter numbers, or population issues.  He is quoted in local reports, calling “pit bulls” wild animals and has stated openly that he would like to see a breed ban in place.

This follows what we have seen in California communities, where one council member makes extremely strong claims about “vicious animals” or “wild animals” and “protecting the community,” while at the same time saying that it is a shelter issue.

There were 2 votes for the proposal, and 3 against.

Two of those who voted against the proposal stated it was an issue of rights for them.  Johnston and Roughton said they could vote to take away the right of dog owners to keep their animals intact.

The other vote for the proposal, aside from Goodman who sponsored it, cited dog attacks as the reason for voting for it, claiming the spay/neuter law would reduce attacks.

As more and more research into the issue of dog attacks and the dogs sexual status emerges, we are seeing stronger correlations to the way the dog is generally cared for, sexual status being an indicator of that.

The 2 part proposal contained the mandatory sterilization of “pit bulls” as well as a proposed marketing campaign urging responsible dog ownership, including voluntary sterilization, licensing and microchipping of pets.

These sorts of campaigns have proven to be incredibly successful, but only when the municipality provides information on how to access these resources.

We hope that the council revisits the campaign, as well as looking into providing resources to low income communities, which are the most impacted in these situations.