Tuesday night, the Plateville common council discussed changes to their dangerous dog laws.
Among the possible changes discussed is a ban on “pit bulls.”
The proposal would make it
“unlawful to own, harbor or keep any animal which:…are pure bred commonly known as put bull, pit bull dog, or pit bull terrier and/or includes a mixed breed of any of the following:…
A. the pit bull terrier breed of dog
B. the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed of dog
C. the American Pit Bull Terrier breed of dog
D. the American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog”
There is nothing that says how this would be implemented, how dogs will be identified or how a person can contest the determination of being banned. In fact, there is no due process at all.
Also, the proposal is listed as having no fiscal impact and requiring no budget increase. The Best Friends Animal Society fiscal impact calculator lists the estimated annual cost at over $16,000. This calculator has been tested against actual cost of implementation in places with breed discriminatory laws and has been shown repeatedly to be extremely accurate.
The discussion comes after an attack on a Chihuahua by two dogs identified as pit bulls. The dogs owner was not cited, though the dogs seem to have been removed from the community at this time.
The idea to ban “pit bulls” from Platteville was raised by Alderman Mike Denn. Whether this is at the request of the resident whose dog was attacked is unknown.
At the meeting this Tuesday, several people signed up to speak in opposition to a breed discriminatory law.
The proposed changes also extend police power in an alarming way. It would allow officers to kill a dog that has been found roaming if they determine the dog is of “vicious character.” There is no information about due process or how this “vicious character” is going to be determined.
There is some potential good in the proposal. It would outline the proper care of animals and outlaw mistreatment of dogs to be made illegal. It would prevent people from keeping dogs without shelter or with inadequate shelter. It also clarifies some of the breed neutral dangerous dog language. This is very positive but there are many flaws in the proposal.
The proposal has been sent to the Freudenreich Animal Care Trust Fund Committee for further study.
There is no denying that there is an issue with loose dogs. How prevalent this issue is, is unclear. Stepped up enforcement of existing ordinances, and actually legally holding people responsible for the actions of their dogs would be one place to start. The owners of the dogs that are responsible for any attack should be held responsible in some way, either criminally or civilly, with due process protections. Further, people who are not managing their dogs properly in the community should be held responsible before an incident even happens. Stringent enforcement of leash laws, licensing (if the town does so) and other basic breed neutral ways go a long way to preventing issues in the first place. It is very likely that this was not the first time these particular dogs were out loose and there should never be a second time.
Breed discriminatory laws invariably contain a wealth of due process and constitutional violations by their very nature and are expensive and difficult to enforce. More and more, we are seeing people stepping up to challenge them legally and the breed discriminatory laws being over turned. More pertinent, is that more and more towns are repealing their old breed discriminatory laws because they have found them to be completely ineffective in making the community safer.
Platteville residents and others in the community are encouraged to respectfully reach out to officials to oppose the implementation of any breed discriminatory law. Residents and locals should also reach out to Wisconsin Voters for Companions Animals, one of our partner organizations, if they are looking for a way to get involved but aren’t sure were to begin. They can be contacted via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wivoters or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.