DeKalb County, GA: Opportunity to repeal breed ban

DeKalb County, GA, has had a sort-of-ban on “pit bulls” for almost ten years, though you wouldn’t know it by reading their breed-neutral animal ordinances (Chapter 5). The only mention of pit bulls in county ordinances is buried in Chapter 27, Zoning (yes, you read that right—zoning), and is accomplished through this definition:

Household pet means a domestic animal that is customarily kept for personal use and enjoyment including domestic dogs, domestic cats, canaries, parrots, parakeets, domestic tropical birds, hamsters and guinea pigs. Household pet does not include livestock, poultry, pot bellied pigs, pit bulls, and snakes.

The definition itself isn’t a ban, but the zoning regulations pertaining to animals are somewhat vague. DeKalb County has zoning regulations for keeping household pets, livestock, and poultry, but there’s no further mention of pot bellied pigs, pit bulls, and snakes. The zoning code neither expressly forbids nor expressly allows keeping of pot bellied pigs, pit bulls, and snakes. Evidently, officials have interpreted it thus: because these animals are not expressly permitted, they are banned.

The county animal shelter does not adopt out “pit bulls” to the general public for the same reason it doesn’t adopt out livestock or poultry—because animal shelters aren’t supposed to adopt out non-household pets. The shelter does release a small portion of pit bulls to rescue groups. Based on its Petfinder listings, the shelter also gets around the ban to some degree by labeling many pit bull-looking dogs as some other breed: hound, Cattle Dog/Terrier, American Bulldog, Boxer, Lab/Terrier, and so forth. “Pit bulls” that are not lucky enough to be reclaimed, pulled by a rescue group, or relabeled as some other type of dog, cannot be adopted and are therefore killed by the shelter.

The lack of an explicit breed ban in the DeKalb County animal ordinance section, the lack of a definition of “pit bull” in any county ordinance, the unclear zoning laws that apply to animal ownership, and the county animal control and shelter’s curious silence about this breed ban (for example, it’s not mentioned anywhere on the DeKalb Co. website or animal shelter website) have produced confusion about, and highly inconsistent enforcement of, the breed ban. It’s not clear how the zoning ordinances affect current or future county residents with “pit bull”-type dogs, who enforces the ordinance, or what the repercussions are for violation of the ordinance. The only thing that is clear is that the county shelter kills a lot of “pit bull”-looking dogs because it can’t adopt out animals that the county doesn’t consider pets.

A recent news article has mentioned that DeKalb County commissioners might consider repealing the ban, presumably by rewording the zoning ordinance to remove reference to “pit bulls.” Nothing official has been proposed or written yet. The Planning, Economic Development, and Public Works Committee was the last committee to discuss the issue.

Residents, please write the county commissioners and encourage them to drop the breed-specific language in the zoning ordinance. To achieve a more humane community and more sensible and enforceable laws, ask commissioners to stop excluding “pit bulls” from their definition of “household pet.”

Contact info for County Commissioners
Board of Commissioners, 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur, GA 30030
Phone: 404-371-2886
Fax: 404-371-7004
Board Clerk Barbara H. Sanders, bhsander@dekalbcountyga.gov
Elaine Boyer, ecboyer@dekalbcountyga.gov
Jeff Rader, jrader@dekalbcountyga.gov
Larry Johnson, larryjohnson@dekalbcountyga.gov
Sharon Barnes Sutton, sbsutton@dekalbcountyga.gov
Lee May, lmay@dekalbcountyga.gov
Kathie Gannon, kgannon@dekalbcountyga.gov
Stan Watson, stanwatson@dekalbcountyga.gov

Email block for cut-and-paste
bhsander@dekalbcountyga.gov; ecboyer@dekalbcountyga.gov; jrader@dekalbcountyga.gov; larryjohnson@dekalbcountyga.gov; sbsutton@dekalbcountyga.gov; lmay@dekalbcountyga.gov; kgannon@dekalbcountyga.gov; stanwatson@dekalbcountyga.gov

County Board of Commissioners meetings
Next meeting: July 26, 9:00 AM
Meetings discussing the regular business of the county are typically held on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month and begin at 9:00 am in the Maloof Auditorium at 1300 Commerce Drive unless otherwise noted. All regular Board meetings are open to the public.

DeKalb could vote to lift pit bull ban

Posted: Jul 20, 2011 11:06 AM PDT
Posted by Adam Murphy

DEKALB COUNTY, GA (CBS ATLANTA) – CBS Atlanta News has learned that DeKalb County Commissioners may vote in the coming months to lift a ban on pit bulls in the community.[…]

[Commissioner] Rader said it could be months before commissioners vote on the ban because legislation must be introduced first.

Full article retrieved 7/21/11 from http://www.cbsatlanta.com/story/15116208/dekalb-could-vote-to-lift-pit-bull-ban?redirected=true

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