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.