In 2013 Waterloo Wisconsin officials were discussing the possibility of repealing their breed restrictions.
Enacted in 1996, the ordinance targeted “(1)The pit bull terrier breed of dog. (2) The Staffordshire bull terrier breed of dog. (3) The American pit bull terrier breed of dog. (4) The American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog. (5) Dogs of mixed breed or of other breeds than listed under Subsections (1) to (4) above whose breed or mixed breed is commonly known as “pit bull,” “pit bull dog” or “pit bull terrier.”“
These dogs and their mixes were considered to be vicious by default. Dogs that were targeted had to be muzzled, on a leash of a certain length, confined to the specifications of the ordinance, both inside and outside the house, targeted dogs are not allowed to live in multi-dwelling housing and signs must be posted. These rules apply to dogs that have been declared vicious by their behaviors, as well as those who are determined to be a targeted breed.
In 2013 Watertown, WI, looked into a breed discriminatory law and rejected the idea after a lengthy debate. The proposal there was a mirror of Waterloo’s ordinance. This rejection was used to galvanize support in the area against breed discriminatory laws, as well as highlighting and supporting the failure of such a law.
At their last meeting, officials acted on this suggestion by removing all breed based language from the dangerous dog ordinance.
We have been able to get some information about what happened there behind the scenes.
The issue first came up when a bike trail between Waterloo and Watertown was approved to be installed by the State. A group of dog carting and sledding enthusiasts who hold events in the area decided, based on several factors, that this trail would be a great place to promote dog carting events, but because of the existing breed discriminatory law in Waterloo, participants would not be able to cross the city line without stopping to muzzle some of the participating dogs. This raised some questions for competitions, as well as the legalities behind dogs that may not be residing in Waterloo, and whether the law would affect them. Included in the participating dogs that were restricted are therapy dogs working in the surrounding areas.
The city was contacted by community members who were concerned about the effect the breed discriminatory law would have on such events and the city at large.
After the city was contacted, a committee was formed to investigate the issue, look at the existing law, make recommendations and draft changes to the existing law. Three public Safety Committee meetings were held. The public was invited to participate in all meetings. After the changes were drafted, there was a public hearing on the new language in the ordinance. Between 10 and 15 people attended the hearing. There were some differences of opinion on aspects of the changes officials were making to strengthen the revised breed neutral law, such as leash requirements and licensing issues, but all the residents agreed that breed neutral was the way the city should go.
Only one person spoke in support of the existing breed discriminatory language. This person was not known to the community members. When it became clear that the idea of keeping the existing breed discriminatory language was not supported by any member of the community or council, we are told that the individual that was there supporting it became frustrated. This person had, at one point, attempted to get some personal information of the people who suggested the repeal, but the members of the community refused to disclose any of that information.
There was only one dissenting vote to the changes.
Congratulations to the city of Waterloo, Wisconsin, for supporting safe and humane communities, and wanting to address the real causes of dangerous dogs, reckless and negligent owners.