Officials in Clay Alabama passed a ban on dogs they deem to be pit bulls recently. Our initial report on the matter can be found here.
The Sheriff was menaced by dogs that he initially identified as pit bulls, but later said were Rottweiler mixes. He fired shots at the dogs, grazing one, to scare them off. 7 days after this incident, officials passed a ban that allows people to keep their current dogs if they are registered by August 3rd and in compliance with a long list of restrictions.
The ban was passed with no warning to the public. Naturally the public, when they were finally notified that officials had acted behind their backs, became upset. Since then residents and locals have gathered together to try to mount a legal challenge to the ban.
There are several questions about the ordinances legality. One question is whether the law was passed in violation of Alabama’s open meeting laws. Alabama Act 2005-40 § 2(1-6) states very clearly that any meeting with a majority voting must be duly made aware to all those wishing to participate that the law would expressly affect. There are a certain number of days notice must be posted, as well as the type of notice that is legally sufficient, covered in this law. It is being investigated whether or not the meeting violated this law.
The second issue is the constitutionality of the law. The definition of a banned dog is a bit confused. From the ordinance:
“Pit Bull” as used in this Ordinance means: any Pit Bull Terrier, which shall be defined as any American Pit Bull Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog, or any mixed breed of dog which contains, as an element of it’s breeding the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier as to be identifiable as partially of the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier.
The phrase “an element of it’s breeding” means that a dog that is 1% of the listed breeds is banned. This kind of language has been challenged in court before and the ordinance has failed essentially because 1% is impossible to prove or defend for implementation of the ordinance. It is also impossible to say that banning a dog with 1% of a targeted breed has any rational basis to public safety. Even if the court accepts that there is some genetic propensity for violence, to say that 1% has the majority of genetic influence would be a stretch at the very least.
Pit Bulletin Legal News Attorney Fred Kray took a look at the ordinance and in their show gave a run down of the ordinance, it’s issues and some pressing questions residents had about registering their dogs to be in compliance with the grandfather clause. You can listen to the full analysis hear.
Residents have been attending meetings asking for information and answers to their questions since the ordinances passage. Officials have been less than gracious in hearing these issues. Audio from the meetings taken by those in attendance show officials flat-out refusing to let certain people speak on the matter.
Officials have said they are speaking to “animal experts” to hear what they have to say before discussing whether the ordinance should be reviewed. This has not been enough for residents of Clay.
With the deadline to register their dogs fast approaching, residents are hoping to raise enough money to be able to file an injunction. We would hope that litigation would not be needed for officials to act but residents have expressed that they feel like it is the only way to be able to over turn the ban.
A site has been started by people in the area. Visit Fight BSL in Clay at http://fightbslinclay.org/home.html.