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.