The Livingston County Kentucky Fiscal Court is in the process of trying to enact a dangerous dog law that would target several different dog breeds.
Some officials have stated that they are trying to hold owners more accountable for their dogs by targeting these breeds, while others say they are being targeted because the listed breeds are responsible for all the attacks in the county.
The ordinance currently targets American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers and Rottweilers.
There are several ways a dog can be determined to be restricted. One way is if either parent is registered as one of the listed breeds. A second way is if an owner “registers, defines, admits, or otherwise identifies the dog as being of a restricted breed.” The last would be certification by a licensed veterinarian. Though the ordinance does not explicitly say this, certification by a veterinarian would be at the behest of animal control. It is often the case that animal control tries to get vets to identify dogs to be targeted by laws like this. These ID’s are done visually under most circumstances. The vet must certify that the dog is “primarily” one of the targeted breeds. What percentage “primarily” means is not specified. The definitions are confused. The wording of the proposal mentions both phrases “primarily of the breed” and “substantially conforms to” with no clarification as to what either of these mean for practical application of the ordinance.
They are using both the UKC (United Kennel Club) and AKC (American Kennel Club) standards to try to define and enforce this. Both kennel clubs are mentioned in the definition portion of the ordinance. Both the UKC and the AKC have made statements that using their breed standards for the enforcement of a breed discriminatory law is a violation of their copyright.
The ordinance calls for special registration that comes with a list of requirements that are standard to any licensing law. Proof of vaccines, sterilization and personal contact information for the owner. However, the owner of a restricted dog will have to provide proof of $50,000 in liability insurance.
However, this is not a license, it is an application process. Officials will review the “application” to determine if the person is allowed to keep their dog. This includes a criminal background check for an owner of a targeted dog. There is some question as to the constitutionality of something like this. If the application is denied, the dog will be taken and killed. There is no clause saying the dog can be rehomed either inside or outside the county. It explicitly says the dog will be killed. In cases where a person is granted the “right” to own a restricted dog and is found to be in violation, they will have a very limited amount of time to remove the dog from the county.
We asked Attorney Fred Kray, of Pit Bulletin Legal News, to examine the ordinance to give some perspective about the due process involved in the ordinance as written. According to Mr. Kray, “the appellate process is flawed. While they term it a review – it is written, and there is no trial, cross examination, subpoena of witnesses or burden of proof as required by Mansour v. King. There is nothing that requires the government to come forward to prove their case, and thus the way it is worded puts the burden of going forward on the owner. They then put the burden of proof on the owner as well to justify the license. Because they are wording everything as a license, one might get the impression that it is a licensing procedure only. However, they are taking your property and it triggers the fourth amendment. In my opinion, due process is not met in the licensing ‘appeal’ which is really the first tier fact finding hearing.” This is problematic because of the case mentioned. Mansour v. King deals with due process in dangerous dog cases and is very clear about the standards and rules for the case, appeals and keeping of records involved.
Residents have been working very hard to try to sway officials away from a breed discriminatory ordinance. They have been petitioning locally and providing information to officials. Remember, this is a County wide ordinance, so anyone who lives in an unincorporated part of the county would be effected by its passage.
This should be heard on the 23rd of July beginning at 5pm. If anyone in the area can attend please do so. Meetings are held at the County Library/Office building in Smithland KY.
Please reach out and respectfully offer opposition and alternatives to the breed discriminatory ordinance. There is a contact form on the County website or you may e-mail the Magistrates directly with the information provided below.
Livingston County Executive Judge Chris Lasher: firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Stringer: email@example.com
Franklin Walker: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jimmy Ferrell: email@example.com
Marvin Buford: firstname.lastname@example.org