Tag Archives: city council

Two repeals from Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Two cities voted to repeal their breed discriminatory laws during city council meetings on Tuesday, March 10, 2015.

Juneau, WI:  Wisconsin Voters for Companion Animals, one of our partner organizations, reported that the council in Juneau voted unanimously to repeal their law.  The repeal comes after a new resident moved into the town.  The resident, Renada Sharp, had moved into town with a banned type of dog, not knowing at the time that there was a breed ban in place.  When Sharp found out about the ban, she requested that the council repeal the ordinance. The initial request was made a couple of months before the repeal was officially drafted and heard.  This is a pretty typical time line for a repeal that is fully supported by the council.  The local police chief stated to the news media that the ordinance was “unnecessary” because the town already had a breed neutral dangerous dog law in place.  It is interesting that this was passed in the first place.  The law is not an old one in the scheme of breed discriminatory laws.  Most municipalities do better than passing them in the first place, now that we have better science and understanding of the factors that drive dangerous dogs.

Grandview, MO:  We don’t have many details on the driving factors behind this repeal at this time.  Grandview is a relatively small town, and it appears that news media have not picked up on this story.  Brent Toellner, from KC Dog Blog, reported the repeal Tuesday night.  We do know that the repeal, was once again, a unanimous vote.  Grandview’s repeal follows a repeal from Roeland Park, MO, who repealed their breed discriminatory law in the end of January, and an ever growing list from the state in general from last year.

Two unanimous repeals on the same night.

When officials are presented with the latest studies and statistics from their towns, the result is the same.  In some cases, repeal takes more energy and people than in others.  The political climate and whether any officials have an investment of ego in the breed discriminatory law are both huge factors in how seamless a repeal will be.  There is no one formula that will work in every place but the ultimate goal is always safer and more humane communities, and every repeal brings us closer to this goal.

Roeland Park, KS repeals breed ban

Last night officials in Roeland Park, Kansas, ended a months long debate on their “pit bull” ban by voting to repeal the ordinance.

The vote was 6-2 in favor of repeal.

The discussion has been a long one, with many months of debate.  The law, which was enacted in the late 80’s, had not been changed since its initial enactment.

The late 80’s and early 90’s were a pinnacle of hysteria surrounding pit bull types, with national headlines in publications such as Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine.  There was no real data or science studying the issue of dangerous dogs.

Since we have seen vast leaps in the understanding of dog behavior and genetics, more and more of these kinds of laws are falling by the wayside.

Roeland Park joins a long list of Kansas cities that have repealed old and outdated breed discriminatory laws.  This list includes Bonner Springs, Garden City, Spring Hill and Fairway.  These cities all repealed in 2014.

The council meeting was heavily attended, with those for repeal vastly out numbering those for keeping the old law in place.  Only one speaker was opposed to the repeal.

At the moment, people are still restricted from owning more than one dog identified as a pit bull.  This limitation was included as an amendment and will be in effect until January 2018.  There was opposition from the council to the amendment, but they voted to enact it in the interest of “compromise.”

Missouri Valley Iowa to consider repeal of breed ban

Missouri Valley, Iowa, currently has a breed ban in place.  Officials are looking into the possibility of repealing their ban and enacting restrictions instead.

Last month, a resident had his dog confiscated under the ordinance.  The dog in question was moved to an out-of-state location and is currently living with family members.  In response, the resident, Bryan Athay, and his girlfriend, Katie Flora, obtained 63 signatures from registered voters in Missouri Valley asking that the ordinance be revisited.

This is a point of interest for several different reasons.  Often we see online petitions, but the criticism of those is always the same from councils.  Officials point out, rightly so, that signatures on online petitions come from out-of-town, out-of-state and also, in many cases, out of country.  City councils are most apt to listen to the voters in their community.  Even petitions that are taken of residents generally do not have the forethought to limit those to registered voters.  This shows incredible thought and tact on the part of Mr. Athay.

A second point of interest is that Missouri Valley, Iowa, has a population of roughly 2,750 people.  This is an extremely small community.  According to census data there are approximately 1,500 registered voters.  This means that the signatures gathered in less then one month represent slightly over 4% of registered voters in the community.  While this may not seem impressive at face value, given the length of time in which the signatures were gathered, and the fact that they limited it to not only residents, but registered voters in the community, the 4% becomes a much more impressive feat.

The current ordinance targets a variety of dogs under their “pit bull” ban.

E. Pit Bull Terriers, including the following:
(1) The Bull Terrier breed of dog;
(2) The Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed;
(3) The American Staffordshire Terrier breed;
(4) The American Pit Bull Terrier breed;
(5) Dogs of mixed breed or other breeds which are known as pit
bulls, pit bulldogs or pit bull terriers;
(6) 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.

This law is covered under the city code regarding Dangerous and Vicious animals, putting “pit bulls” in the same category as badgers, wolverines, weasels, skunk and mink, raccoons, bats and, oddly enough, scorpions.

The council will meet on July 1st, where the issue will likely be open to discussion.

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.


An Urgent Message from Aurora Colorado

There is no doubt that demonstrations can be an effective tool in certain situations. This is not one of those times.  The following has been reprinted with permission from ColoRADogs regarding tonights meeting in Aurora Colorado.

We’re not demonstrating and asking people to not do so, because we have been asked to avoid it by the people who have the power to continue to ban our dogs. We choose not to because Council Woman Renie Peterson has made a tremendous effort to advocate on behalf of all pit bull owners, and deserves the full support of our community. She has said it is counter to our efforts and hers. We respect that, and her, so we will follow her lead. When someone shows you the path and says it’s the one most likely to lead you to the end goal, you take it.

It’s the last blog before tonight’s presentations. We hope to see you all there filling the room. We also want to wish the best of luck to community members who will be presenting about urban chickens. In the middle of this work, sometimes the view can get myopic. There are other issues equally important to Aurora citizens, and chickens are a big one. Our founder’s community has urban chickens. We love them, so best of luck to the chicken advocates!

We’ve actually avoided this blog. We know that when you put things in writing, you risk the cut and paste crowd of using your words against you. At this point, because we have had so many supporters and advocates email us privately and ask, we thought it’s time to open up a discussion. Starting with why we will not, nor do we, support demonstrations.

The work in Aurora this year has been difficult and has required political tightrope walking. While there are many aspects to ColoRADogs, we have spent an average of 120 person hours a week on this issue alone. When we decided to work with Aurora to repeal this law, we reached out to Jen Bryant to come on board. Jen has a proven track record of working with City Council and getting results. We knew that despite years of effort, BSL had no signs of going away and we needed to do it differently.

With Jen working as a liaison, and with the incredible efforts of Council Member Renie Peterson who introduced the proposal to end BSL, we were able to open dialogue with city council. Our one question was, “How can we support your council to remove BSL?” It was that simple. No berating, no telling them they suck. Just a simple question, “How can we help?”

What we received were comments from council members asking us to, “keep it respectful,” and that if it “became a circus” they would shut it down.

Do we think that is just an excuse to not move repeal forward? Perhaps for one, or maybe two of the members. But for the others, it was guidance on how to succeed. So we’ve followed it to a tee.

Not because we’re into rules or like to tow the line for anyone. But because after so many years in advocacy work for less than popular issues, along with speaking to advocates who have succeeded in repealing BSL in their communities, we have evidence of what works, and what does not. The most consistent feedback we have received has been, “Avoid demonstrations, they polarize and stop forward momentum.”

This is not about trying to quiet anyone. It’s not about ego nor credit. We could not care less about 15 minutes of fame.  Those things do nothing to further the agenda of breed neutral laws and safe, humane communities. It’s about the ability to fund resources to underserved populations in Aurora. It’s about pit bull owners who have had to say goodbye to their beloved family member. That is our focus, period. It’s not personal to anyone or any group.

It’s out of respect to the process, the council, and every owner who has come to us asking for help to get rid of these laws. We owe it to all of you to do our very best with the information we have, and to make this successful for you.

We hope to see you out there in support and solidarity both tonight and March 3rd for study session. Remember, keep it respectful and keep the faith. We’ve been given information on how to help support forward movement. Let’s take it and run with it.

Here are the details again. Public input is held before the regular city council meeting. Show up at 7pm to sign up to speak. You have three minutes to show your best stuff. If you have a Power Point presentation, please submit it to Television Services, first floor city hall, 15151 E. Alameda Parkway Aurora, Colorado 80012, near the Aurora Room by noon on Monday.

Also, please have a paper copy of your presentation so City Council can follow along.”

Baker City Oregon unanimously rejects breed discrimination

Following a fatal attack earlier this year, officials in Baker City Oregon were discussing the possibility of a breed discriminatory law targeting pit bull terrier like dogs.

The proposal would have declared targeted breeds to be dangerous and impose restrictions on them that were also to be imposed on dogs with a history of bad behavior. Targeted dogs would have included “… pit bull terrier, an American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier or American Staffordshire terrier breed of any dog or any mix of dog which contains as an element of its breeding the breed of American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier or American Staffordshire terrier as to be identifiable by the Hearing Officer as partially of the breed of American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier or American Staffordshire terrier.”

A committee was formed to study the issue.  The committee examined many ordinances from across the country.   In the video from the last meeting, we have the opportunity to see the results of advocacy done right, and a group of council members who were very clearly concerned about the community, but needed just a little gentle guidance to come to the best possible ordinance.

During the discussion from the members of the committee and community, Councilor Coles made a motion to accept the proposal as is, minus the section that was breed based.  He cites the resolution from the American Bar Association urging municipalities to pass breed neutral laws as having had a great impact on him.  At that time there was no second, but a comment from another councilor that they would like to hear the rest of the testimony regarding the proposal.

Not one person who spoke, spoke in favor of breed based language. Watching the decorum of the speakers in very interesting.  Each speaker thanked the council and praised the process, starting off their commentary on a positive note.  At no time were any direct comments made about the council, or the council members, all comments were reserved for the material.

At the end, the initial motion to strike the breed discriminatory language is seconded by Councilwoman Mosier, who proceeds to make the commentary that is transcribed below. (edited for length, full comment available in the video linked above)

“I don’t have any special love for pit bulls or for any particular breed.  For me what it has come down to is increased community safety…All of the studies that I read…and pieces of information from peer-reviewed sources seemed to come down to the idea that multi-faceted approaches work best in achieving community safety.  That means not just banning a specific breed or restricting a specific breed, but community education, and insuring that we have problem pet owners addressed and insuring that we have dangerous dog ordinances enforced and that there are many fronts that have to be addressed in order to actually achieve community safety…I have a list of the organizations that support breed neutral ordinances and I’d just like to read them for you…the CDC, the American Veterinary Medical Association, National Animal Control Association, the Humane Society, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Best Friends Animal Society, the American Bar Association and the White House even had an article supporting breed neutral ordinances that address… the problems that tend to lead to dangerous dog situations…There was one set of statistics that I did see…that refers to some success of such legislation but for my money that one set of statistics, or that one set of scenarios that cited success of breed specific legislation doesn’t outweigh that long list of peer-reviewed studies.

The council unanimously voted to remove all breed discriminatory language from the ordinance.

The proposal, as it stands now, addresses many things that will improve community safety, including addressing tethering, a tiered declaration for dogs who, based on their behavior, are causing issues in the community, mandatory obedience training for dogs declared dangerous and a section specific to reckless dog owners.  More communities are moving to enact reckless dog owner ordinances.  Most dangerous dog legislation follows the dog but does not address repeated negligent behavior by the owner.  Reckless dog owner ordinances make sure that people who have a history of not operating proper care and control of their dogs are held accountable for their history of negligent behavior.  Educational programs for school children were also discussed as a supplement to the ordinance.

If anyone would like to reach out and thank the council for their common sense, community based approach, the council members contact information is below.

Richard Langrell:  richard@alwayswelcomeinnbakercity.com
Clair Button: cfbutton@gmail.com
Roger Coles: krcoles@msn.com
Dennis Dorrah: dennisdorrah@gmail.com
Mike Downing: mdowning@bakercity.com
Barbara Johnson: bjohnson@bakercity.com
Kim Mosier: kim.mosier.esq@gmail.com

Thanks to the Portland Pit Bull project for continuing to update on this issue.

A message from Aurora Colorado regarding potential repeal of their ban

It has been a long hard road to repeal the breed ban in Aurora Colorado.  There have many attempts to have the council address the issue via letter writing campaigns, requests to the council directly and other tactics, which would be best described as “frontal assaults.”

One of the biggest things that tends to trip up efforts such as this is the inability to remain factual, letting emotion override reasonable discourse.  We see this time and time again, Broward County Florida this past summer and Yakima Washington this past week are just a couple of examples from recently.  Officials  say that the process is not respected adequately and the result is often the same in every municipality, legislators shut down to the conversation, and dig in to the status quo.

Aurora is at a tipping point.  The council has pledged to give the issue thoughtful examination, and word from inside Aurora shows that this is not an empty promise.

ColoRADogs, a local advocacy group that has been working towards a repeal, has published a letter for those in the area about what is taking place behind the scenes and what is needed to help continue the discussion in a productive manner.

Keeping thoughtful discourse open requires several things in this case specifically.  The issue will be addressed in January 2014, but the council members are wearing thin on having the regular city business interrupted.  At this time, people are being asked to withhold public commentary at the council meetings until the issue is brought forward in January, as this will put the issue in jeopardy.  For residents (and residents ONLY) who wish to write, one of the council members has made some suggestions for keeping correspondence productive.

Remember that this is a political process.  When we engage in the political process, we must attempt to think like a politician.  The “frontal assault” tactics have failed before and advocates are trying to keep this from happening again.

The following is republished with permission from ColoRADogs:

“Addressing BSL in Aurora and my conversation with Councilwoman Peterson

I apologize for the delay of my post. I have spent considerable time drafting a post that will convey the importance of the CM Renie Peterson’s suggestions and concerns, while remaining sensitive to the urgency and concerns of fellow animal advocates.  All I can do in that regard is assure you all that this subject is deeply personal to me, as well, and I am conveying this information in attempt to preserve the possibility of repealing Aurora’s Restricted Breed Ordinance and creating a model responsible ownership community for other cities to emulate.

By accomplishing these two things, and preserving the line of communication we create in doing so, we can achieve more safe and humane communities across the state, improve shelter conditions, reduce shelter intake, and encourage shelters to save lives through behavioral programs and rescue partnerships.  That’s another post, let’s get to Renie’s concerns and suggestions.

CM Peterson shared with me that repealing the ban is attainable only if we keep the line of communication open by respecting the council, the process and the city of Aurora.   Many of the members of council and the Mayor want to give this issue the time it deserves.  This will be proposed in January, provided council does not feel regular city business is disrupted before then. Renie did share that members of council feel bombarded with a profoundly negative message, by non-constituents and some constituents, at the regular city council meetings and this is already wearing on them.

I would ask you to forgive my bluntness, but we simply do not have the opportunity to mince words at this point.  It has come to my attention that some advocates plan on addressing council again this month.  Please respect the time of council and the fact they have already agreed to hear us out in January and give them this time to finish their current projects for 2013 and begin their reorganizing for 2014.  Addressing them again this month only serves to break down the relationship.

If advocates continue the negativity and disrespect towards their time and their city the proposal to repeal will be dropped at any time, and we currently face the very real possibility of not being allowed the opportunity for discussion.  For those of you there in 2011, you know the difficulties that presents  It’s not very effective trying to coach a council member through facial expressions from the sidelines.  We need to be in on the conversation.  Change happens through productive dialogue and it is up to us to see that we have that opportunity.

Today I sat in a jury room for hours watching other potential jurors being asked questions first by the prosecutor who brought them in by empowering them. Then I watched a (I presume new) defense attorney tear them down through her own style of questioning which bordered on accusatory, as if they were the prosecution’s witness.  The jurors visibly became defensive and lost focus on the questions as they focused on their new-found hatred for this defense attorney. Council members are like jurors.  Win them over!  Make them want to be on your side!  They don’t owe you or I anything, their duty is to  do what is best for the city and their constituents as a whole.  We can provide the knowledge and the tools, council will make the decisions.

So let’s lighten this up a little and get to the fun part!  Suggestions!  How we can win them over!  While you may have heard some of these from me before, the general suggestions are straight from an Aurora Councilwoman.

GRATITUDE!  Yes, you can be sincere and do this.  Remember despite some of the same challenges, progress was made in 2011, thank Council for continuing to work with us and thank them for choosing to move the proposal forward.  Please be sure to thank CM Renie Peterson for bringing this to council.

KEEP IT LOCAL!  Like I said before, council wants to hear from their constituents but if they start seeing the majority of messages are not from constituents they will not have the time to read and the message will be lost altogether.  If you do not live here but want to help , recruit Aurora citizens or a highly regarded expert (star power, anyone?)

KEEP IT POSITIVE!  What?  How?  Actually, it’s not that hard if you think about how exciting and fun  it would be to create a model responsible ownership community in our very own city.  Focus on the future possibilities. If you have been personally effected, that is important to share that experience, and this is not an attempt to marginalize your experience. We will share the facts of how BSL has been unsuccessful but the overall message should be positive as we explore how reversing the ban will reflect well on the city.

SUPPORT SUPPORT SUPPORT!  Let the council know you support their efforts spent exploring the repeal of the ban, that you support the repeal, you support reckless owner laws, you support a safer and more humane Aurora, you support the Animal Care and Control in working with citizens and supporting organizations.  I will say it again.  SUPPORT!

Thank you for reading this through, happy advocating and as always, Take C.A.R.E!
Jennifer Bryant
Community Outreach Director