Category Archives: State Specific

Missouri HB 1116 to prohibit breed discrimination on the state level passes committee

A bill in Missouri that would prohibit municipalities from enacting breed discriminatory laws has been heard by the House judiciary Committee.

HB 1116 is very simple.  The bill seeks to add an amendment to the current state code that reads: “273.195. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to limit in any manner the authority of any village, town, or city to prohibit dogs from running at large or to further control or regulate dogs within its boundaries; provided that, no such ordinances, orders, policies, or regulations are specific to breed.”

Missouri HB 1116 has been passed out of the House Judiciary Committee.   The committee voted 13-2 for the bill.  HB 1116 now goes to the full house for a vote.    If it passes the full House, the bill will move to the Senate side, where it will go through the same process of committees and hearings by the Senate.  If it passes the full Senate the bill will then need to be signed by the Governor.

The legislative process is a long one, but it is important that residents continue to contact their Senators and Representatives expressing support for this bill.

There is currently no date set for the next reading.

Some have said that there are some legislators who have received correspondence against the bill, so it is important that those residents that support the bill reach out to their legislators and ask them to support it as well.

Missouri residents can find their specific legislators in the Senate here.  House representatives can be found here.

This post has been edited to reflect that there is no second committee hearing, as was reported by a local organization.  The bill is moving to the full House so residents should contact their Representatives to ask them to support this bill.

Advertisements

Georgia state level concerns

The issue of Georgia and what is happening there has been very much the topic of conversation recently.

At this point in time, there is no chance of a breed discriminatory law being introduced on the state level for the 2014 legislative session.  The deadline for filing bills has passed, and since nothing has been filed, the issue is not of concern for this year.

There is a long past to the issue of a potential breed discriminatory law in Georgia.  Most recently, the issue we are seeing with Representative Waites has taken some strange turns.

In early 2013, a very young child crawled out of their home and was attacked by seven dogs.  The two-year old child crawled out of a dog door, while unsupervised and as a result, died.

Rep. Waites had some contact with the family of this particular victim, and the conversation about breed discriminatory laws began.  Local advocates were quick to act, meeting with Rep. Waites to both oppose the idea of any breed discriminatory laws, as well as to offer help is crafting breed neutral laws.

The initial discovery was that, as is typical with many legislators, there was very little understanding of what dangerous dog laws need to contain in order to be effective.  It is not uncommon that those who seek to make these laws know little about them.  It is not something that many people deal with on a daily basis.  This is why it is important that legislators hear from those who are well versed in the civil, criminal and constitutional issues of dangerous dog laws.

What we do see with some legislators when dealing with breed discriminatory issues, is usually a base line understanding of which dogs are typically targeted.  We have been told that the Representative did not know that her own dog was considered to be dangerous in many locations, by insurance companies and designated as rescue only by an organization in her own district.

The results of these preliminary conversations were that the Rep. said she would no longer pursue a breed discriminatory law.  A note on Rep, Waites’ Facebook page from late April 2013, states that any law would be breed neutral.

From the note:

“Instead of proposing an all-out ban of dangerous dogs or on pit bulls, which could be seen as infringing on the individual freedoms of responsible pet owners across the state, I am merely proposing that those who choose to own violent and dangerous animals that have a history of violence be held responsible, considering the type of damage these animals are capable of inflicting,” said Rep. Waites. “While I am very committed to the passage of comprehensive dangerous dog legislation, I am also interest in ensuring that responsible pet owners are not unfairly targeted.” 

“I don’t think outlawing pit bulls is the way to go. However, there must be stronger laws on the books governing attacks by aggressive dogs, and stiff penalties to go with them for the owners of the dogs.   When people start seeing dog owners go to jail for irresponsible behavior, they’ll start thinking twice about keeping a potentially dangerous animal for a pet,” Added Rep. Waites.”

This line of discussion continued through June of 2013.  It wasn’t until the mother of another young child that was killed while unsupervised approached Rep. Waites that the conversation about breed discriminatory laws began again.

There are two videos on the Representative’s Facebook page.  The first, from December 12th 2013, is one where Rep. Waites has a conversation with the mother of the second victim from 2013.   During this, the Representative states very clearly that she wants to seek “bully breed” legislation on the state level.

The latest official statement made is from February 2014 video in which Rep. Waites addressing the House with a statement.  In this statement she urges the House to pass a law that would make the breeding of “pit bull animals to only licensed holders.”  This is language used frequently when a breed discriminatory mandatory spay neuter law is being discussed.  We have been told that the Representative has said on numerous occasions, even directly after saying she was in opposition to a breed discriminatory law, that a breed discriminatory mandatory spay/neuter law was of interest.  She seemed to have a particular interest in breeders specifically in these conversations.

She also states in this video that “every day a child is fatally injured by animals that were simply never ever meant to be pets.”  Not only is this statement a clear indicator of the personal bias involved in this, but it is also a complete falsehood.  Each year there are roughly 30 fatal attacks by dogs.  This number has remained steady despite both the rise in the human population and the rise in the dog population.  While each situation is tragic, there are numerous co-occurring factors involved in fatal attacks, but the breed or type of the dog is not one of them, shown once again by the latest peer-reviewed study published by the JAVMA.

This statement was accompanied by a rally, attended by roughly 15 people, including out-of-state interests.

The situation will continue to be monitored.  It has been made clear that the legislative desired of Rep. Waites changes depending on who is being spoken to, so only time will tell what, if any, actual action will be taken in the 2015 legislative session.

Representative Waites is currently up for re-election and is, at this time, running unopposed.

Thank you Jo for the additional information regarding this issue.

Maryland HB 422 hearing overview

The House Judiciary Committee met to hear HB 422, a bill that would prevent breed discriminatory laws on the state level.

According to the bills sponsor, the bill was submitted due to the Solesky decision.   The bill, which if it remains as is, would outlaw breed discriminatory laws on the state level, repeal existing ordinances and prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenets with certain breeds of dogs.

The bills sponsor pointed out the some of the numerous issues caused by BDL and the precedent of the 17 states that currently outlaw BDL and the additional states that are considering anti-BDL bills this year.

Right away one member of the committee raise the issue of Prince George’s County and what would happen to their ban.  The sponsor stated that it was her intention that existing ordinances would be grandfathered in, but the language of the bill does not allow for that.  The bills sponsor said that she would amend to clarify that issue.

It is important to note that the Chief of Prince George’s County Animal Management Division was present and testified in support of the bill.  He was asked to testify for the bill by the head on the Animal Management Services Division.  During what was a compelling testimony, he stated that 793 dogs were confiscated under the ban in the 2013 fiscal year.   Roughly 75% of confiscated dogs were euthanized.  $250,000 have been spent in Prince George’s County on enforcement of the ban in 2 years.  He also testified that the number one biter was either labs or cocker spaniels.  He stated that the ban has done nothing for Prince George’s County but separate well-behaved dogs from good families and that the focus needs to be on effective solutions.  He testified that the ban has not worked for Prince George’s County.

The portion of the bill which was most hotly contested was the portion relating to landlords.  Many people testified in support of the bill, with the exception of that particular portion.  Considering that the legislature has failed to address the effects of the court ruling, that particular portion of the bill would put landlords in an impossible position.  Again, amendments were suggested to remove the language pertaining to landlord discrimination.

Many people testified in support of the bill, but very oppose it.  Not surprisingly, Tony Solesky, whose son was the center point in the appeals court ruling, testified against.  There was a pattern during that day’s hearing.  There were many bills regarding dangerous dogs that were heard.  Tony Solesky testified against every single one regarding dangerous dogs, and spent the entire time focusing on breed instead of lobbying for effective solutions that have a chance of effecting change, and passing through the process.

For example, HB 371 was heard.  This bill is to strengthen the dangerous dog laws in breed neutral way.  Increasing penalties, and strengthening the requirements for those who have dangerous dogs.  Solesky testified against strengthening the dangerous dog laws because it was breed neutral and behavior based and tried to lobby for the bill to be breed based, saying that Maryland should be able to “…simply eliminate certain breeds of dogs the same way we eliminate, why wild animals aren’t allowed among us.”

This stark opposition to any form of solidifying the dangerous dog laws in a breed neutral way is confounding.  Victims are no more or less of a victim if they are attacked by one type of dog or another.  We point to this specifically in order to show that the issue is not really about public safety for the pro-BDL lobby.

Maryland legislators have heard a lot of information about the failures of breed discriminatory laws over the last few years.  Many of them come into the hearing for HB 422 extremely well versed in the failures and short comings of such legislation.

As things stand now, the committee has not acted.  Because the sponsor has said that she is drafting amendments to the bill, it is possible that the committee will not act on the bill until that is done.

Residents of Maryland please reach out and write a brief letter of support for this bill to the committee.

Joseph.vallario@house.state.md.us
Kathleen.dumais@house.state.md.us
Curt.anderson@house.state.md.us
Sam.arora@house.state.md.us
Jill.carter@house.state.md.us
Luke.clippinger@house.state.md.us
John.cluster@house.state.md.us
Frank.conaway@house.state.md.us
Glen.glass@house.state.md.us
Michael.hough@house.state.md.us
Kevin.kelly@house.state.md.us
Susan.lee@house.state.md.us
Susan.mccomas@house.state.md.us
Mike.mcdermott@house.state.md.us
Keiffer.mitchell@house.state.md.us
Neil.parrott@house.state.md.us
Samuel.rosenberg@house.state.md.us
Luiz.simmons@house.state.md.us
Michael.smigiel@house.state.md.us
Kris.valderrama@house.state.md.us
Geraldine.valentino.smith@house.state.md.us
Jeff.waldstreicher@house.state.md.us

Maryland HB 422 would prohibit breed discriminatory laws on the state level

A bill that has been introduced in Maryland that would prohibit breed discriminatory laws on the state level is being heard by the House Judiciary Committee today.

The catalyst for this bill is likely the situation with the Maryland court of appeals ruling that found “pure breed pit bulls” to be inherently dangerous, and that landlords were to be held strictly liable if a tenants “pit bull” caused injury to some one.

HB 422 , a bill which currently has 10 sponsors, would do several things.  The first is that it would prevent municipalities from enacting dangerous dog laws on the local level that single out any one breed or type of dog.  This bill would also prohibit landlords from refusing to rent to a person based on the heritage of their dog, as well as protecting renters from eviction because of their dog.

This is the first state-wide bill to specifically address landlord discrimination in rental practices based on the appearance of the dog.  It is not surprising that this would come out of Maryland at this time, considering the issues that have arisen out of the Tracey v Solesky ruling.

The pertinent text of the bill is listed below.   

” (B) A MUNICIPALITY MAY NOT:
(1) ADOPT AN ORDINANCE PROHIBITING A PERSON FROM OWNING, KEEPING, OR HARBORING A DOG OF A SPECIFIC BREED, TYPE, OR HERITAGE; OR
(2) DETERMINE A DOG TO BE A NUISANCE, POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS, DANGEROUS, OR INHERENTLY DANGEROUS, OR OTHERWISE REGULATE A DOG BASED ON THE BREED, TYPE, OR HERITAGE OF THE DOG.

12 13–102.1. (A) THIS SECTION MAY NOT BE CONSTRUED TO PROHIBIT A COUNTY FROM RESTRICTING THE OWNING, KEEPING, OR HARBORING OF A DANGEROUS DOG, AS DEFINED IN § 10–619(A) OF THE CRIMINAL LAW ARTICLE, OR A DOG THAT HAS BEEN DETERMINED TO BE POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS IN ACCORDANCE WITH § 10–619(C) OF THE CRIMINAL LAW ARTICLE.
(B) A COUNTY MAY NOT:
(1) ENACT A LOCAL LAW PROHIBITING A PERSON FROM OWNING, KEEPING, OR HARBORING A DOG OF A SPECIFIC BREED, TYPE, OR HERITAGE; OR
(2) DETERMINE A DOG TO BE A NUISANCE, POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS, DANGEROUS, OR INHERENTLY DANGEROUS, OR OTHERWISE REGULATE A DOG BASED ON THE BREED, TYPE, OR HERITAGE OF THE DOG…

(C) REGARDLESS OF THE TERMS OF ANY CONTRACT, DEED, COVENANT, RESTRICTION, INSTRUMENT, DECLARATION, RULE, BYLAW, LEASE AGREEMENT, RENTAL AGREEMENT, OR ANY OTHER DOCUMENT, A HOMEOWNER OR TENANT MAY NOT BE:
(1) PROHIBITED FROM OWNING, KEEPING, OR HARBORING A DOG OF A SPECIFIC BREED, TYPE, OR HERITAGE; OR
(2) DENIED OCCUPANCY IN OR EVICTED FROM RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY SOLELY BECAUSE THE PERSON OWNS, KEEPS, OR HARBORS A DOG OF A SPECIFIC BREED, TYPE, OR HERITAGE.”

This bill also specifically addresses current breed discriminatory ordinances, and would nullify them. This means that any and all existing breed discriminatory laws would be repealed by this bill.

Nothing in the bill prohibits any municipality, or landlord from rejecting dogs that have proven, based on their behavior, to be dangerous.

One of the largest issues effecting shelter populations of typically targeted dogs is a lack of pet friendly rentals.  This bill is an opportunity to address this problem and will set the precedent for other states to do the same, as well as repealing the long-standing breed discriminatory ordinances in Maryland.  The bill is set for its first hearing today.  Local groups have been working hard on support for this bill.

When the hearing is completed, we will know more specifically what is needed from Maryland residents in order to help support passage of this bill.

Emergency bill filed in Maryland to reverse appeals court ruling

Last year a bill that would reverse the Maryland appeals court ruling that “pure breed pit bulls” are inherently dangerous failed to pass at the last-minute amidst disagreement over what the standard of liability for dog owners should be in Maryland.

The ruling in the case of  Tracey v Solesky stems from a dog attack in which a young child was seriously injured by a dog belonging to a renter.  A protracted legal battle ensued and eventually made it to the highest appeals court in Maryland.  A 4-3 ruling by the court declared that both pure breed and mixed “pit bulls” were inherently dangerous and landlords were automatically liable for damages caused by a tenants “pit bull.”  However, on motion for reconsideration, the ruling was changed to only “pure breed pit bulls,” which was undefined by the court. The ruling has had far-reaching consequences for owners of muscular, short-haired dogs.  Shelters reported increased in-take, and landlords began to threaten eviction.

Legislators had vowed to address the issue in the 2014 legislative session when their attempts in 2012 and 2013 failed.

To be clear, these attempts did not fail because of opposition to addressing the breed based language of the ruling nor did they fail because of any opposition to addressing the liability imposed on third parties by the court of appeals ruling.  They failed because of differing opinions on what if anything should be done with the standard of liability for dog owners, should it revert back to the common law before the ruling, become strict liability or meet in the middle.

HB73, Personal Injury or Death Caused by Dog – Rebuttable Presumption, has been filed as emergency bill and is sponsored by Senator Brian Frosh and Delegate Luiz Simmons.   As an emergency bill, if passed through the full legislative process, the bill would go into effect immediately upon passage.

Because of the repeated stalemates between the House and the Senate on what the standard of liability for dog owners should be, HB 73 has been drafted as a compromise between the two sides of the issue.  The bill raises the standard of liability from the former common law, what is commonly referred to as a “one free bite rule,” but stops short of strict liability, giving dog owners the ability to defend any allegations that the dog is dangerous by creating a rebuttable presumption.  Briefly, this means that in the case of a dog related incident a court would assume that the owner knew the dog was dangerous but the owner has the opportunity to prove that they had no prior knowledge of a dogs dangerous or vicious propensities.

HB 73 is set to be heard by the House Judiciary committee on January 23rd at 1pm.

Local groups are urging those who live in the districts of the members of the House Judiciary Committee to reach out as a constituent and ask them to support this compromise bill.  

The committee members district information is below.  If you live in one of these districts contact the appropriate legislator to politely but urgently let them know that Maryland needs a solution. Other Maryland residents are also encouraged to call or write their legislators to urge them to support this bill.

You can find your Representative on the state’s website by clicking the “Who Represents Me?” link on the top right of the column of Representatives.  Legislators on the House Judiciary Committee are listed below alphabetically by name, followed by their county and district number.  Contact information is available by clicking on the name.

Anderson, Curt– Baltimore City, 43
Arora, Sam– Montgomery, 19
Carter, Jill P.-Baltimore City, 41
Clippinger, Luke-Baltimore City, 46
Cluster, John W. E., Jr.-Baltimore, 8
Dumais, Kathleen M. (Vice Chair)-Montgomery, 15
Conaway, Frank M., Jr.-Wicomico and Worcester, 40
Glass, Glen-Hartford and Cecil, 34a
Hough, Michael J.-Frederick and Washington, 3b
Kelly, Kevin-Allegany, 1b
Lee, Susan C.-Montgomery, 16
McComas, Susan K.-Harford, 35b
McDermott, Michael A.-Wicomico and Worcester, 38b
Parrott, Neil-Washington, 2b
Rosenberg, Samuel I.-Baltimore City, 41
Simmons, Luiz R. S. -Montgomery, 17
Smigiel, Michael D., Sr.-Kent, Queen Anne’s, Cecil, and Caroline, 36
Swain, Darren M.-Prince George’s, 24
Valderrama, Kriselda-Prince George’s, 26
Valentino-Smith, Geraldine-Prince George’s, 23a
Vallario, Joseph F., Jr. (Chair)-Prince George’s and Calvert, 27a
Waldstreicher, Jeff-Montgomery, 18

Thank you Pauline and Tami for the information on HB 73.

Washington legislator pre-files bill, HB2117, to prevent breed discriminatory laws on state level

A bill has been pre-filed in Washington state that would prevent municipalities from enacting breed discriminatory laws.

The bill, House Bill 2117, was pre-filed for introduction on December 10th, 2013 by  Sherry Appleton.

The bill is to amend portions of the state’s dangerous dog statutes, in order to prevent municipalities from being able to enact breed discriminatory laws on the local level.

The introduction to the bill reads as follows:

(1)A number of local jurisdictions have enacted ordinances prohibiting or placing additional restrictions on specific breeds of dogs. While the legislature recognizes that local jurisdictions have a valid public safety interest in protecting citizens from dog attacks, the legislature finds that a dog’s breed is not inherently indicative of whether or not the dog is dangerous and that the criteria for determining whether or not a dog is dangerous or potentially dangerous should be focused on the dog’s behavior.
(2) The legislature further finds that breed-specific ordinances fail to address any of the factors that cause dogs to become aggressive and place an undue hardship on responsible dog owners who provide proper socialization and training. The legislature intends to redirect the focus away from particular breeds and to instead encourage local jurisdictions to employ more effective and data-driven prevention models to control dangerous dogs and enhance public safety.

It is not clear at this time how the issues of home rule or grandfather clauses will be addressed.

In 2013 there were 3 states that passed bills that prohibit breed discriminatory laws.  These laws passed with overwhelming support from legislators and received overwhelming support from residents of those states.

It is well documented that a multi-faceted community based approach to dangerous dogs is far more effective than breed discriminatory laws.  These types of laws protect the property rights of responsible owners and require that the issue of dangerous dogs be looked at comprehensively.

Washington state residents:  Please reach out to your Senators and Representatives and respectfully ask them to support this bill.  It is important for residents to be involved in the legislative process and voice their support of such bills.  Legislators cannot act on their constituents interests if they are not expressed.

You can find your legislator via the states website here: http://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/

Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana Considering Breed Discriminatory Legislation

The Tangipahoa Parish Council discussed requiring pit bull owners to have their dogs licensed, vetted and micro-chipped at their last meeting. Animal Control Director Chip Fitz said he’s leaning towards such regulation because “If we have an animal able to do damage, we want to be able to track it.”

According to Fitz, the ordinance has not been finalized and no timetable was set for it to be brought before the parish council for consideration.

Fitz admitted that overall bite counts had remained constant over the last two years: 55 in 2011 and 53 in 2012. His concerns with pit bulls, however, were irresponsible ownership and level of strength. “My concern is traditionally when a pit bull bites, it’s bad.” Pit bulls have also become a lot more popular in the last year.

It is inconceivable that regulation of pit bulls in Tangipahoa Parrish is even being considered without some kind of objective evidence it is needed. Bite data remains the same, despite the observation that pit bulls “have become a lot more popular.” No evidence has been produced as to the number of pit bulls, nor any evidence that pit bulls have been involved in bites more than any other breed. And, of course, there has been nothing shown that indicates pit bull bites have been more severe than any other type of dog.

Please send objective, polite, and respectful communication to the Council members below to let then know you are against this potential pit bull regulation.

Hon. Trent Forrest
19334 Hwy 38
Kentwood, LA 70444
(M) 985-514-1955

Hon. Ronnie Bankston
43229 Sweetpea Lane
Hammond, LA 70401
(O) 225-567-2350/985-320-6159

Hon. Greg Varnado
59467 Dummyline Rd.
Amite, LA 70422
(O) 985-748-9320

Hon. Lionel Wells – Chairman
1700 Mooney Avenue
Hammond, LA 70403

Hon. Louis Nick Joseph
279 Highway 40 West
Independence, LA 70443

Hon. David Vial
47162 Oak Creek Trace
Hammond, LA 70403
(M) 985-974-0570

Hon. Carlo S. Bruno
P.O. Box 1274
Independence, LA 70443

Hon. Harry Lavine
21145 Esterbrook Rd.
Ponchatoula, LA 70454
(M) 985-222-5325

Hon. Nicky Muscarello, Sr.
105 Abingdon Way
Hammond, LA 70401

Hon. Bobby Cortez
42102 Jefferson Drive
Hammond, LA 70403
(O) 985-542-1581

Kristen Pecararo
P. O. Box 215
Amite, LA 70422
(O) 985-748-3211/748-7041