Tag Archives: BDL

Moreauville, LA repeals breed ban; Implements state law

After a dramatic couple of weeks, the Moreauville, LA, board voted, on December 1st, to unanimously repeal the recently passed breed ban that targeted “pit bulls” and Rottweilers.

At this meeting, the entire dangerous dog ordinance was repealed, not just the breed based portion.  The only thing that remained at the time was the leash law that had been passed around 20 years ago.

On December 8th, the board voted to implement Louisiana state dangerous dog law.  This law is completely breed neutral and focuses on the actions of the dog and owner.

The ban was passed at the request of several residents.  It was not a consideration of the board until the request was made.  There were multiple incidents with dogs menacing residents, and they finally reached their breaking point.

I spoke to Mayor Timmy Lemoine about several incidents.  One resident has their dog chained along the recently built pavilion and play ground area.  Families hold birthday parties and gatherings there.  Despite there being room on the property for the dog to not be in direct contact with that particular section, that is where the dog was chained.  Chained dogs are often frustrated and act out, and this dog is no different.  Several complaints had been made from residents fearing the chain would break.  Officials attempted to speak to the dog owner, asking that the chain spot be moved back away from the common area, and were met with an extremely hostile response.  It went so far that residents stopped using the public area out of fear of this particular dog.

Another issue is a dog that is used intentionally to menace others.  We are told a man would sit with his dog on the front porch of his house, near the sidewalk and tell his dog to “Sic ’em” as people passed.

Mayor Lemoine had concerns about the way some dogs are being housed.  There are dogs that are chained all day in the Louisiana summer heat, with no shelter and minimal resources.  “A dog out on a chain like that all day goes crazy.  Anyone would,” said Lemoine.

He stated that it was the intention of the board that confiscated dogs be held at a local veterinary clinic while the owners arranged for housing elsewhere or elected to have the dogs put down.  The thought seemed to be that the dogs would be housed in a better place and cared for.  “It isn’t humane the way these dogs are being kept…I don’t see how that is humane out on a chain like that all the time.”

The ordinance was copied from a neighboring town and, as such, the language and use of the word “disposition” was left open to interpretation.  Mayor Lemoine said that the implications of the wording were not considered in depth in the passage of the ban and understands why it was interpreted the way it was.

It was the understanding of officials that the ordinance, as written, was constitutional.  They were advised by the town attorney that this was the case because it had not been challenged in the municipality it originated from.

October 13th, the board voted to pass the ban.  Mayor Lemoine said that they felt stuck.  They had been asked to do this by their constituents and did not realize the implications of the law.

Having been advised by the attorney that it was ok and having heard from officials in the town the ban originated from that it was “working” made it seem like a ban would be the cleanest solution to their problems.  “I know the owners are the problem here, but we can’t ban the owners so it seemed like we could do something by banning the dogs,” said Lemoine in an interview with us.  “We were stuck between a rock and a hard place.  It is an election year and they (the residents) made it clear this was what they wanted and if we didn’t do it they wouldn’t vote for us…”

Officials did not expect the ban to garner the attention it did.  The story was featured internationally, created a circus of half-truths and opened the door to opportunism and fraud. Much of this attention can be traced to the images of Ohara Owens and Zeus.  The media zeroed in on this aspect of the story because of the health problems of the young woman.  They took the story and ran with it, taking the statement that the dog was “like a therapy dog” and turning it into Zeus actually being a therapy dog.  Fundraisers were started by uninvolved parties, as well as involved parties for personal expenses, unrelated to this issue.

Mayor Lemoine addressed the issue of Zeus in our conversation.  He stated that he contacted a reporter at KALB about the issue.  “Zeus was never at risk…I received an e-mail from (the family) saying he was an American Bulldog…I told them to throw out the letter…he was safe…Zeus wasn’t a problem.  He was in the house and never caused any issues…I didn’t want to talk to (the family) directly because anything I said could be used against me.”

Mayor Lemoine had to disable social media messengers because of threats.  We have said this before, will say it again and will likely have to repeat it in the future.  Threats of any kind are inappropriate, counter productive and absolutely unwarranted no matter what the circumstances.

In speaking to Mayor Lemoine, several things become clear.  This was a case of a lack of adequate research and wanting to act quickly on the request of residents.  The intentions of the board were good ones.  The behavior of the problem dog owners is abhorrent.  At the risk of editorializing, if there is blame to be placed for the passage of this ban, that blame would rest squarely on the shoulders of those who are mismanaging their dogs and creating issues in Moreauville.

It is clear that both Mayor Lemoine and the board care deeply about their community.  “We are a nice little town and we don’t want people to have to fear,” said Lemoine.

People readily ascribe negative intentions to officials who pass these laws but most often the intentions are not bad ones but more poorly thought out in the rush to act.

It is easy to get lost in emotion and vitriol when dealing with matters of breed discriminatory laws.  We cannot allow ourselves to get wrapped up in half-truths and rhetoric.  We have to be open to honest dialogue about the needs of the community at large and build bridges with officials on all levels.  Nothing is gained in threats and hatred and indeed we have more to lose by indulging in these paths.  We cannot expect everyone to understand how breed based laws affect the community without a thorough and thoughtful conversation.

For the most part intentions are good, though efforts misplaced and effects misunderstood.  Mistakes are made.  We must move past these mistakes and offer our help and expertise to officials who find themselves in the difficult position of having to draft a law they have no experience with.

The simple solution is not always the most effective, but it is the most attractive.  Lets offer help in place of hate, and build bridges to safer and more humane communities.

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Moreauville, LA, passes breed ban: Demands all current dogs be removed

UPDATED INFORMATION HERE:  stopbsl.org/2014/11/24/moreauville-la-update-officials-pledge-to-suspend-enforcement-of-ban

On October 13th the small town of Moreauville, Louisiana, passed a ban on pit bull type dogs and Rottweilers.

The city has a little over 900 residents and no online presence.

Officials claim that they passed the ban at the request of  several residents.  These residents approached the council saying that they were unable to walk in certain neighborhoods because “these dogs were basically running along town.”  Alderman Penn Lemoine said the ordinance was enacted to “appease” these residents.

Officials say that there have been attacks but none have been documented.  This begs the question, what sort of animal control is in place, or was in place, before the ban?  Was it being enforced?  At the very least, it is clear that any laws that were in place were not being enforced.  We are attempting to get a copy of any pertinent legislation for review, but at this time, it is unclear if there are any laws on the books, or if there is an animal control agent tasked with enforcement.

The law does not have a grandfather clause.  This means that every single dog that matches the targeted type is at risk of being confiscated and killed.  A letter was sent out to residents saying that they must get rid of their dogs by December 1st or they will be confiscated and taken to a “veterinary clinic for further disposition.”

letter to remove dogs moreauville la

According to a local report, when the police chief was asked what would happen if dogs are not turned over voluntarily, the resident questioning the chief was told that, “They would come and get the dog and the dog would be disposed of and we would be fined.”

When pressed to clarify what “disposition” meant, Alderman Penn Lemoine refused, saying, “I’d rather not elaborate on that.”  Apparently, city officials are fine with passing a law that takes away and kills people’s dogs because of the way they look, but they are not comfortable talking about it publicly.

Something the Pro-BSL lobby claims all the time is that a ban doesn’t mean that dogs are taken away from their homes and killed.  They claim that these are scare tactics used by “pit bull advocates.”  They claim that all current owned dogs are allowed to live out the rest of their lives under a ban and that it is just new dogs that are not allowed.  We know from many places that this is not true, and this letter to owners of pit bulls and Rottweilers is just more evidence of that.  We at StopBSL would like a statement from BSL proponents, clarifying what exactly they mean, in the face of this evidence, that it is only a “scare tactic.”

Families with targeted dogs are seeking support to be able to keep their dogs.  There is a question as to the legality of taking property that was obtained legally at the time of the legislations passage (in this case dogs are considered property) and “disposing” of it.  There are also questions about the legality of the ordinance in general.  Preliminary review from experts in the field of dangerous dog law  point to numerous constitutional and due process issues in the ban.

Officials are claiming that if there is enough of an outcry, they might revisit the issue on the December 8th meeting.  This is completely insufficient.  The deadline for the targeted dogs is a week before the next meeting.

RESIDENTS AND LOCALS:  It is incredibly important that members of the council hear your voices.  The passage of the ban was kept relatively quiet until now.  It is important that people are heard but all communication must be professional, respectful and factual.  We know this is an emotional issue, but anger and vitriol achieves nothing except to alienate officials in a time when people need their voices to be heard the most.  Offer alternatives, such as containment laws and point out the many failures of breed discriminatory laws.

Fosters are being lined up so that the targeted dogs can have a safe place to go, if needed, while this issue is resolved.  If you are local and outside the city limits of Moreauville, and can foster, please send a message to www.facebook.com/RepealBSLMoreauville.

Pawtucket Rhode Island loses battle to keep ban

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.

Aurora, Colorado: The good, the bad and the silver lining

November 4th, a ballot measure in Aurora, Colorado that would have repealed the ban on dogs who are over 50% “pit bull” failed to pass.

On the surface, this seems to be a disheartening loss.  A lot of hard work was put into educating the public about the ban on a shoe string budget, and hopes were high that this would be the first repeal to happen by popular vote.  Ballot measures of any kind are complex creatures, with many factors contributing to the outcome.  It was an uphill battle from the start, but, when the bottom line is examined, we come away with a message not of failure, but of hope and success.

The first issue advocates for breed neutral laws had to contend with was the time frame.  The ballot was brought up for discussion by the city council 2 months before they officially created the measure.  City council must vote to put an issue on the ballot and the language of the ballot.  This means that groups in the area had a scant 90 days to develop and deliver their message.

Repeal had been a long running discussion in the community.  The issue had seen some significant media coverage even before the ballot came up.  The media and council were told by Aurora Animal Control that the ban was working and that bites in the community had been reduced, though they neglected to provide any data.   The actual data, obtained via a request to the city attorney, tells a very different story.

Chart used with permission from ColoRADogs

Chart used with permission from ColoRADogs

A detailed analysis of the data from Brent Toellner, KC Dog Blog, shows the same story that is clearly illustrated in the above chart.  Bites have increased in Aurora, overall, by 77% since the bans inception (details provided in the link).  This pivotal fact was neglected by every single media outlet that reported on the issue.  It is very clear that animal control was presenting “facts” to support the ban, instead of those that would inform the public.

Not only was Aurora Animal Control playing the part of spin doctor to cover the bans failure at protecting residents, they have also failed at breed identification.

Image used with permission from ColoRADogs

Image used with permission from ColoRADogs

Aurora is one of the few places where DNA testing is codified in the law. Because of this, we can see exactly how good animal control is at the job of identifying “pit bulls.” 76% of the time, dogs being targeted under the ban are not covered under the wording of the law.  76% of the time, resources in the form of man hours and money are wasted on dogs that are unlucky enough to look the part.  This information was also readily available via the city attorney’s office, but, yet again, both animal control and the media neglected to mention, even once, how abysmal the breed identification track record is.

In the 90 days before the ballot due date, local groups conducted a grassroots campaign to inform the public about the ballot and the ban.  Director of ColoRADogs, Nancy Tranzow, stated that many people believed the ban only affected dogs who were actually vicious, and were unaware that dogs that had done nothing wrong were being confiscated and killed.  When it was explained how these laws impact innocent families, many people changed their opinion of the ban.  The issue of property rights did not seem to affect opinions, stated Tranzow.  This stands out because according to a focus group conducted by Luntz Global, at the behest of Best Friends Animal Society, the issue of property rights featured strongly as one of the most effective arguments.

So what happened with the ballot itself?  Aurora operates mostly on mail in ballots and voters are responsible for postage.

The language of the ballot was deceptively simple.  “Shall the people of Aurora adopt an ordinance allowing pit bulls back into their city?”  This would appear to be a good thing, particularly after the issue of the Miami ballot measure language, which was so confusing many people claimed they voted the wrong way.  Experts on the legislative process and ballot initiatives say otherwise.  Many point out that overly simple language on a complex issue leads people to make uninformed decisions.  So instead of opting out of voting on something they are not familiar with, a person will vote based on “feeling, not fact” as Councilwoman Molly Markert so aptly put it.

“It’s not about a fact, it’s about a feeling.”  Should public safety be about a feeling?  This question should not even have to be answered.  The answer should be so self-evident that the question would never have to be asked.  Unfortunately, Aurora finds itself at the mercy of feelings and not facts.  The beautiful thing about facts, however, is that they always win out in the end.

So lets look at the facts:

-Aurora’s ban had not reduced attacks.

-Those tasked with the implementation of the ban cannot identify what they are trying to keep out of their community and yet they continue to insist this thing they can’t identify is much more dangerous than other dogs just by being.

-Informal polling in mid-September showed only 24% of people were for the repeal and (according to the count at the time of this posting) 35.2% actually voted to repeal.  This percentage increase in the span of roughly 45 days is remarkable.  Though some pro-BSL blogs are saying that the vote was 22,719 to repeal the ban and 92,898 to keep the ban, this is untrue.  The official count for the measure at the time of this post is 34,284 votes for repeal vs 62,953 against.  These numbers have changed several times, with the number of votes for repeal, creeping up steadily.

Polling roughly 45 days before the vote showed 24% for repeal.  That turned into 35.2% of voters for repeal.  This is something that should be highlighted.  There were 90 days to reach a community of almost 350,000 people, a part of which had no idea that there is a ban in place.  In 45 days, advocates increased support for the repeal and not only increased support, but increased the number of people who were willing to vote to change it in a quantifiable way.  Fact, not feeling.

The repeal failed.  This is a fact.  It is also a fact that education works to change minds.  It is a fact that the people working for the repeal were effective in their methods.  They worked professionally and ethically in the face of bullying, cyber stalking and harassment by the out of state pro-BSL lobby.  They worked diligently in the face of childish name calling, liable and blatant bigotry against them as individuals by so-called victims advocates.  They stood up and spoke up for the betterment of the community and they most certainly are not stopping just because feeling won this round.

Fact will win out.

Enumclaw, WA, keeps breed ban in place

At last nights meeting in Enumclaw, Washington, officials voted to keep the current breed ban in place.

The meeting drew a great number of commenters, some from both sides of the issue, but as we have seen before, the commenters for repealing the ban, out weighed those for keeping.  There was a small contingent to keep the ban, led by a woman whose child had been attacked by a dog she identified as a “pit bull.”  Public comment lasted for over an hour.

The vote to keep the law in place was unanimous.  This is interesting considering the vote to repeal was nearly unanimous as well, with only one dissenting vote.  The official recommendation per city documentation, was to repeal the existing ban.

There is some speculation that officials did not want to act to repeal with the emotional pressure present.

Though the repeal failed to pass the second reading, officials have said that this is not the end of the discussion.  Replacing the ban with restrictions is one idea that is being looked at as well as increasing penalties for those who have dogs that attack.

The ordinance that was for discussion, not only repealed the existing ban.  It also would have strengthened the rest of the dangerous dog laws, to better protect the community from negligent owners who fail to exercise proper care and control over their dogs.  A companion to the repeal would have adopted the county animal control law, which has been updated far more recently then the cities law.

King County provides animal control for the city, and having laws that are the same is extremely important for the proper enforcement of those laws.  Disparity breeds confusion for both residents and those working in official capacity, for the county.

It is unfortunate that officials failed to provide equal recourse for all victims of dog attacks and has failed to act in a manner that would have made for more effective enforcement of Animal Control within the city.

Medford Oregon public meeting to discuss possible breed discriminatory law

The city of Medford Oregon is discussing the possibility of a breed discriminatory ordinance.

Councilor Karen Blair said recent attacks by dangerous dogs against other dogs prompted her to ask the city for more information about the issue.

In a news report Blair was quoted as saying, “There are few people that can handle a dog that strong, particularly when its jaws naturally lock.”  It is clear that there are some serious misconceptions regarding the anatomy of dogs, that has hopefully been cleared up by some of the correspondence the city council has already received.

The council was reportedly looking into how other municipalities handle dangerous dogs.   The statement was made that presence of breed based bans and restrictions in other areas prompted them to look into the issue for themselves.  While this maybe true, the prejudicial and misinformed statements made point to an internal factor in the investigation of this issue.

Another Oregon town recently discussed breed discrimination.  After looking at the information, Baker City Oregon roundly rejected the idea and the organizations that support these types of laws, as flawed, biased and ineffective.  The result was a fantastic, comprehensive breed neutral law that will serve the entire community.

After a look at municipal bite data, the police department stated that there have been 89 reported dog bites in 3 years.  These numbers were concerning to officials, and they began discussing what can be done to reduce bite rates in the city.  The city of Medford has a population that was estimated to be over 76,000 residents in 2012.

When the idea was originally brought forward, feedback from the officials was mixed.  The Mayor specifically stated that a ban wasn’t on the table.  Several other council members offered similar opposition to a ban, but feedback specific to restrictions was not given.

There was a study session held initially.  According to news reports, the sessions discussed the idea of breed discriminatory legislation in general.  Correspondence from the council has proven this to be true, but the council also heard presentations on why breed discriminatory laws are problematic.

Residents have been collecting signatures on petitions and the council has reportedly received a lot of correspondence regarding the issue.

There is not a lot of feedback regarding which direction the council may take.

Medford Oregon residents:

The city has issued a press release.  A meeting has been scheduled for February 19th beginning at 4:30pm, 411 W. 8th Street, Medford, Oregon, on the 3rd floor of City Hall.  This meeting is being held to hear public input on the potential changes to the current dangerous dog laws.

Residents should attend this meeting to politely and factually oppose breed discriminatory laws.  Those who speak can also present written information to the council for consideration at that time.

Those who cannot attend can direct their written opposition to the council directly at the following e-mail addresses.

Gary  Wheeler – Mayor    mayor@ci.medford.or.us
Karen Blair – Councilmember Ward 2:  council@ci.medford.or.us
Daniel Bunn – Councilmember Ward 4:  council@ci.medford.or.us
Chris Corcoran – Councilmember Ward 3:  council@ci.medford.or.us
Dick Gordon – Councilmember Ward 1:  dick.gordon@cityofmedford.org
Tim  Jackle – Councilmember Ward 1:  council@ci.medford.or.us
Eli Matthews – Councilmember Ward 2:  council@ci.medford.or.us
John Michaels – Councilmember Ward 3:  council@ci.medford.or.us
Bob Strosser – Councilmember Ward 4:  council@ci.medford.or.us

Hornbeak Tennessee passes first reading of breed specific law

Hornbeak Tennessee passed the first reading of a new law regarding vicious dogs that includes restrictions on several breeds of dogs.  The measure was voted on Tuesday night and passed unanimously.  There is one more reading before the ordinance becomes law.

“The proposed ordinance amends current municipal code by adding a section regarding vicious dogs, and it specifically names several breeds of dogs which are included and outlines stringent requirements for having those breeds. ” More can be read here.

Residents and locals: Please reach out NOW and express opposition to the breed specific law.  Officials have said that they are having problems with dogs in general but are singling out “dangerous breeds” as well.  Politely and respectfully inform them how breed specific laws do not work to increase public safety but a comprehensive breed neutral law will. With a unanimous vote there was likely no one who has stepped up to oppose this.

Hornbeak is an extremely small town with no online presence but the information for City Hall is  (731) 538-9626, 212 W Main St, Hornbeak, TN. 38232