Tag Archives: breed specific legislation

Rhode Island HB 7630 would allow a single town to enact a breed discriminatory law

A bill has been introduced in the Rhode Island state legislature that would amend the current state law that prohibits breed discriminatory laws.

The bill was introduced to allow the city of Warwick to enact a breed discriminatory spay/neuter law.

HB 7630 would add the following language to current state law that prohibits breed discriminatory laws.  Breed discriminatory laws would be prohibited  “…except in those instances where the rule, regulation or ordinance pertains to spaying or neutering of pit bulls and staffordshire bull terriers located in the city of Warwick, and provided such rule, regulation or ordinance shall not apply to licensed breeders of such dogs.”

When the current state law that prohibited breed discriminatory laws was passed, it was unclear what the intention of the bill was, regarding existing ordinances in the text of the bill.  The bills sponsors, however stated very clearly that they intended it to apply retroactively.  Pawtucket took issue with the law, saying that their existing breed discriminatory ordinance should be allowed to stay.  Warwick was another town that had an existing breed discriminatory law.

Warwick’s old law was a prohibition on owning a targeted dog unless it was altered, or the person had a license for breeding issued by the director on the local animal shelter.  Targeted dogs included American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, “or a dog that is a mix of the two breeds.”

It appears that Pawtucket is going the way of litigation in an attempt to keep their old law, but Warwick is attempting to get this specific legislative exemption.

The amending of a state law to allow one town an exemption is bizarre, to say the least.  The bills sponsor has already said that the bill was intended to act retroactively, and this is Warwick’s attempt at being about to keep their old breed discriminatory law.  Four of the 5 sponsors of the bills are located in Warwick, the fifth is from Providence.  Clearly city officials are asking for this from their representatives.

The bill has been assigned to the House Municipal Government Committee.

Warwick residents should reach out to their representative and ask them to pull the bill.  Be factual and polite, we have years of the failure of such laws to back up the opposition.

Rhode Island residents:  Please reach out to the committee, particularly if one of the members of the committee is your specific representative.  The state law was passed to protect the property rights of all residents of Rhode Island, not those residents who don’t live in Warwick.

rep-ackerman@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-amore@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-bennett@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-costantino@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-desimone@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-hearn@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-johnston@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-kazarian@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-lima@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-marshall@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-newberry@rilin.state.ri.us
rep-ogrady@rilin.state.ri.us

South Dakota bill end prohibit breed discriminatory laws on the state level goes to the Governor

The South Dakota bill to prohibit breed discriminatory laws in the state, SB 75, passed the full House.

The vote was 41-28, for the bill.  SB 75 now moves to the Governor’s desk.  The Governor can either sign the bill or veto it.  If he signs it, the South Dakota will become the 18th state to outlaw breed discrimination on the state level.

This bill was passed through the process at an incredible speed.   SB 75 had its first reading on January 23rd.   The bill received a favorable vote by the Senate committee of 6-1 on January 31st and was moved to the full Senate.

The February 4th vote by the full Senate was very close.   The bill barely passed with 19 votes for and 16 against.  There was a lot of talk of opposition to the premise of the bill, but as we have seen in the past, there were some whose issue was states power versus municipal rights to self governance.

The bill comfortably passed the House committee on February 27th with a 10 to 3 vote for the bill to be moved to the full House.  On March 4th, the bill had its final House vote of 41-28.

The text of the bill is very simple.

Section 1. That chapter 40-34 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:   No local government, as defined in § 6-1-12, may enact, maintain, or enforce any ordinance, policy, resolution, or other enactment that is specific as to the breed or perceived breed of a dog. This section does not impair the right of any local government unit to enact, maintain, or enforce any form of regulation that applies to all dogs.”

It appears that this bill may nullify existing ordinances.  The fact that it specifics that a municipality may not maintain or enforce a breed discriminatory law points to a retro active application.

We will not know for sure until the bill is signed and applied.  Some times the language is too vague to really know the intent of the legislators until the issue of existing ordinance is raised after the bill comes into effect.

South Dakota residents should reach out the Governor Dennis Daugaard via the states website and ask that he sign SB 75 into law.

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.

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.

Albany Georgia tables breed discriminatory ordinance

Following the first vote, in which a strict breed discriminatory law was passed in Albany Georgia, support from officials began to wane.

If the proposal had been passed unanimously, officials could have waived the second reading and passed the proposal in one night.  The vote came in at one short of unanimous and was scheduled for the next vote.

This began the back slide of support for the proposal.  Many in the community and from organizations dealing with these issues began reaching out to the commission to express opposition to BDL and offer alternatives to the proposal between the first and second meetings.

There were several issues being raised, from the difficulty of enforcement, to concerns that the ordinance as drafted was to going to be too much of a financial burden on people.

After that first vote, the council had 2 new members take their seats.  Both of these council members were opposed to the proposal.  “Commissioner Coleman and Ward III Commissioner B. J. Fletcher took office after the ordinance was introduced.  Neither likes the existing proposal because of cost to owners and questions about enforcement.”  Additionally, Fletcher stated that any law they enact should be “concise” so that it is able to be enforced.

One council person felt that the ordinance should be passed and then revisited to be amended later on.  Jon Howard said there should be changes made to the proposal but wanted to pass something first and make changes when they see what is and what is not working.

At the last meeting, the final vote was to be held, but instead the commission voted to table the proposal.  Usually when a proposal is tabled, a date is set for it to be considered again.  This is not the case in Albany.  There was no discussion whether this would be considered again, and when that may be.  According to news reports, the commissioners are considering the proposal dead at this time.

This does not mean that the proposal is dead, however.  Until it is officially killed off, the proposal is still possible in the future.

Two council members are staunchly for a breed discriminatory law.  Additionally, one is for a breed discriminatory law because he knows of backyard breeders and some how thinks that the proposal will end that.

There are several important things to note about Albany’s Animal Control.  They do not have their own facility and pay the local humane society to house dogs.  This proposal would put an extreme burden of both the finances of the city, as well as the finances of the local Humane Society.

Records are not kept in any adequate way.  The commissioners had used the statistic that there were 48 bites attributed to “pit bulls” in 2013.  These are both animal and human combined.  The most recent census data from Albany puts the population in 2012 at just over 77,400.  There was no other data supplied about the numbers of other bites, though the indication is that there are many other bites that need to be addressed in the city and the 48 is a minority of incidents.

Georgia had passed a state level dangerous dog law that dealt with many issues some time ago, which was supposed to have been incorporated into the local municipalities by now.  Albany has not yet done so.  In fact, though there is a breed neutral dangerous dog law on the books, there is no classification for a potentially dangerous dog, nor is there any particular nuance or deterrent in the current ordinance.

Groups in the area are working to change this, so that Albany can strengthen the dangerous dog laws and be able to address the real cause of dangerous dogs in the community and come into compliance with the state law.

One group, Stubby’s Heroes, has provided substantial information to address the various issues being experienced by the community.  They have offered breed neutral alternatives and are working to bring in those who can help Albany comply with state law.

At this point, there will be no breed discriminatory law in Albany.  The situation still bears watching into the future.  The best bet will be for officials to enact one of the alternatives offered so that all dangerous dogs in the community are addressed, and responsible owners aren’t penalized for the actions of the few.

Thank you Jo for the information and update regarding this issue.

An Urgent Message from Aurora Colorado

There is no doubt that demonstrations can be an effective tool in certain situations. This is not one of those times.  The following has been reprinted with permission from ColoRADogs regarding tonights meeting in Aurora Colorado.

We’re not demonstrating and asking people to not do so, because we have been asked to avoid it by the people who have the power to continue to ban our dogs. We choose not to because Council Woman Renie Peterson has made a tremendous effort to advocate on behalf of all pit bull owners, and deserves the full support of our community. She has said it is counter to our efforts and hers. We respect that, and her, so we will follow her lead. When someone shows you the path and says it’s the one most likely to lead you to the end goal, you take it.

It’s the last blog before tonight’s presentations. We hope to see you all there filling the room. We also want to wish the best of luck to community members who will be presenting about urban chickens. In the middle of this work, sometimes the view can get myopic. There are other issues equally important to Aurora citizens, and chickens are a big one. Our founder’s community has urban chickens. We love them, so best of luck to the chicken advocates!

We’ve actually avoided this blog. We know that when you put things in writing, you risk the cut and paste crowd of using your words against you. At this point, because we have had so many supporters and advocates email us privately and ask, we thought it’s time to open up a discussion. Starting with why we will not, nor do we, support demonstrations.

The work in Aurora this year has been difficult and has required political tightrope walking. While there are many aspects to ColoRADogs, we have spent an average of 120 person hours a week on this issue alone. When we decided to work with Aurora to repeal this law, we reached out to Jen Bryant to come on board. Jen has a proven track record of working with City Council and getting results. We knew that despite years of effort, BSL had no signs of going away and we needed to do it differently.

With Jen working as a liaison, and with the incredible efforts of Council Member Renie Peterson who introduced the proposal to end BSL, we were able to open dialogue with city council. Our one question was, “How can we support your council to remove BSL?” It was that simple. No berating, no telling them they suck. Just a simple question, “How can we help?”

What we received were comments from council members asking us to, “keep it respectful,” and that if it “became a circus” they would shut it down.

Do we think that is just an excuse to not move repeal forward? Perhaps for one, or maybe two of the members. But for the others, it was guidance on how to succeed. So we’ve followed it to a tee.

Not because we’re into rules or like to tow the line for anyone. But because after so many years in advocacy work for less than popular issues, along with speaking to advocates who have succeeded in repealing BSL in their communities, we have evidence of what works, and what does not. The most consistent feedback we have received has been, “Avoid demonstrations, they polarize and stop forward momentum.”

This is not about trying to quiet anyone. It’s not about ego nor credit. We could not care less about 15 minutes of fame.  Those things do nothing to further the agenda of breed neutral laws and safe, humane communities. It’s about the ability to fund resources to underserved populations in Aurora. It’s about pit bull owners who have had to say goodbye to their beloved family member. That is our focus, period. It’s not personal to anyone or any group.

It’s out of respect to the process, the council, and every owner who has come to us asking for help to get rid of these laws. We owe it to all of you to do our very best with the information we have, and to make this successful for you.

We hope to see you out there in support and solidarity both tonight and March 3rd for study session. Remember, keep it respectful and keep the faith. We’ve been given information on how to help support forward movement. Let’s take it and run with it.

Here are the details again. Public input is held before the regular city council meeting. Show up at 7pm to sign up to speak. You have three minutes to show your best stuff. If you have a Power Point presentation, please submit it to Television Services, first floor city hall, 15151 E. Alameda Parkway Aurora, Colorado 80012, near the Aurora Room by noon on Monday.

Also, please have a paper copy of your presentation so City Council can follow along.”

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.