Medford, Oregon, officials have rejected the idea of a breed discriminatory law.
The idea was initially raised by Councilor Karen Blair after a complaint of dog on dog attack in the city.
Councilor Blair had made some ill-informed statements to the media in support of a law that would have targeted dogs deemed to be pit bulls. Blair stated that, “There are few people that can handle a dog that strong, particularly when its jaws naturally lock.” (referencing what she called “pit bulls”)
As officials were examining possible changes to their dangerous dog laws, they accepted public input from many different sections of the community. All presenters were professional, respectful and well versed in the latest peer reviewed studies that all state that breed is not a factor in attacks.
The first study session was widely publicized as one that considered a breed ban. Information directly from the council showed that this option was discussed, but a large part of the conversation had centered around the problems in enforcing such a law and the failures of breed discriminatory laws to improve public safety.
Additional information from those communicating with the Council also showed the direction of the conversation was a positive one. Correspondence indicated that only the one council member had shown any interest in such an ordinance. The police advisory committee was formed to examine the cities options for strengthening the cities dangerous dog laws, and not to draft a breed ban, as was implied by media accounts. Because one member of the council was interested in a ban, this took precedent in the conversation as presented by the media, overshadowing the rest of the conversation.
At the last police advisory committee meeting, held this past Tuesday, Medford police said they will propose an ordinance that would target problem dog owners and that a breed ban will not be considered.
One change being considered is increasing penalties for people who are not managing their dogs properly in the community but aside from that there are no real details as to what the proposal could contain.
The advisory committee heard many different options during their meetings. Councilor Bob Strosser was the council representative on the committee. Also on the committee were representatives from the local animal control, representatives of the legal interests of the town, as well as the local police department. The committee had met several times.
During these meetings the legal representative raised concerns about the legal ramifications of a breed discriminatory law. He recommended against a breed based law due to the cost and legal issues.
The animal control representative supported the idea of resources and programs to help dog owners in the community. Behind the scenes, local advocates have offered help with such resources, such as spay/neuter, affordable training and licensing campaigns to bring more residents into compliance.
Councilor Strosser brought several breed neutral laws to the committee for consideration, including the recently passed Baker City law. Baker City passed a comprehensive breed neutral law after some discussion of a breed discriminatory law. During the Baker City meetings officials rejected information claiming one breed or type of dog as more dangerous than others as inherently biased and factually unfounded.
Interestingly, Medford is yet another case where members of the council roundly rejected the “statistics” of the pro-BDL lobby, calling into question their obvious bias and lack of reliability.
Reason prevails. The facts are on the side of breed neutral laws, and slowly but surely we are seeing officials reject the cherry picked, media based statistics in favor of peer-reviewed and verified information.
Medford officials have some fantastic ordinances at their disposal to help craft their new law. We look forward to seeing the results of the continuation of the rational discourse that has taken place thus far.
Thank you Cheryl Huerta, from the Portland Pit Bull Parade, for the additional information on this issue.