Tag Archives: community

Miami-Dade County, FL reminder: Breed ban goes public vote, Aug 14

Absentee ballots and early voting are over and the big day is here. Miami-Dade County will put its longstanding breed ban to a public vote on Tuesday, August 14, 2012.

The ballot question is: “Shall the ordinance repealing the county’s 23 year old law prohibiting the ownership of pit bulls as a dangerous breed of dogs become effective?”

VOTE YES on #500.

Read an eloquent letter from the Miami Coalition Against BSL director here.

Best of luck in Miami-Dade!

All alerts for Miami-Dade County: https://stopbsl.org/?s=%22miami-dade+county%22

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St. Paul, MN reminder: District 10 meeting to discuss dangerous dogs, Aug 9

Residents of District 10 in St. Paul, MN, recently received postcards that suggested St. Paul should pass “pit bull” restrictions.

The cards call for District 10 residents who are concerned about dangerous dogs to meet on August 9 at 6:00 PM at the Historic Streetcar Station in St. Paul. (The card does not explicitly say, but this is the meeting for the District 10 Community Council Neighborhood Relations & Safety Committee. The postcards were NOT sent out by the committee.)

There is a Facebook group organizing to attend this meeting to oppose breed-specific measures and provide breed-neutral solutions. If you would like to get involved, please get all the details from the Event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/135206236620662/

The group also has important information and communication tips for attendees. At the above link, you may also view photos of the postcard that was received by residents.

If you go to the meeting, please…

  • Know your state and local laws regarding dogs. BSL is illegal in MN. St. Paul officials already know this.
  • City officials do not appear to be interested in BSL. The pro-BSL slant appears to be coming from a minority of residents who have been taken advantage of by a certain web site.
  • Know that some residents have valid concerns about dangerous dogs in their neighborhood. Always treat residents and their concerns with respect, even if you disagree.
  • Keep the focus on breed-neutral solutions.

If you attend, please update us on the outcome of the meeting.

St. Paul, MN: Residents receive pro-BSL postcards, meeting Aug 9

Residents of District 10 in St. Paul, MN, recently received postcards that posed the question: “There are more than 650 American cities that strongly regulate or ban dangerous dog breeds.  Why doesn’t the City of Saint Paul?”

The postcards also featured graphic photos of a child attacked by a dog, incorrect “pit bull” fatality statistics, a link to a certain website that pushes for “pit bull” laws, and contact information for area lawmakers. It is not clear who created or paid for these postcards.

The cards call for District 10 residents who are concerned about dangerous dogs to meet on August 9 at 6:00 PM at the Historic Streetcar Station in St. Paul. (The card does not explicitly say, but this is the meeting for the District 10 Community Council Neighborhood Relations & Safety Committee.)

There is a Facebook group organizing to attend this meeting to oppose breed-specific measures and provide breed-neutral solutions. If you would like to get involved, please visit their Facebook Event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/135206236620662/135409406600345/?notif_t=event_mall_reply#!/events/135206236620662/

The group also has important information and communication tips for attendees. At the above link, you may also view photos of the postcard that was received by residents.

If you go to the meeting, please…

  • Know your state and local laws regarding dogs. BSL is illegal in MN.
  • Know that some residents have valid concerns about dangerous dogs in their neighborhood. Always treat residents and their concerns with respect, even if you disagree.
  • Keep the conversation and focus on breed-neutral solutions.

If you attend, please update us on the outcome of the meeting.

Valier, IL: Resident wants breed ban

A resident intends to ask the Valier board of aldermen to ban “pit bulls.” Illinois state law prohibits municipalities from passing BSL, so a breed ban would not be legal in Valier. Fortunately, the mayor and village attorney both appear to be aware of this.

Residents and locals, please attend the July 23 meeting of the board of aldermen. At the July 23 meeting, the resident intends to present his petition, and the aldermen will also hear from the village attorney, and discuss possible options. We do not think BSL will be pursued by the village, but the meeting is an opportunity for residents to respectfully discuss whether or not current laws and enforcement are sufficient, and to bring forward effective breed-neutral proposals for village officials to consider.

This is the only contact information we have for Valier:
117 West Main St., Valier, IL 62891
(618) 724-9393

Valier man wants pit bull ban

15 hours ago • BY STEPHEN RICKERL, The Southern

After being charged by a neighborhood dog on two separate occasions, a Franklin County man is working with other concerned residents to circulate a petition asking city officials to take action. […]

Stanley said he would like to see village officials enact an ordinance barring certain vicious or aggressive breeds, but Valier Mayor Marty Buchanan questions the legality of such an ordinance.

[…] Buchanan said he was told a breed-specific ordinance does not have any teeth and would not hold up in court.

“I don’t want to do that, just to have something out there to satisfy the people when I know it’s not going to make any difference,” said Buchanan. […]

Full article retrieved 7/15/12 from http://thesouthern.com/communities/franklin-jefferson-hamilton/valier-man-wants-pit-bull-ban/article_84d2a9ea-cd63-11e1-a436-001a4bcf887a.html

Belfast, N. Ireland, UK: Lennox killed by officials, but his legacy remains

We first reported on Lennox in late 2010, after he was seized from his home by authorities who said his appearance fit their idea of a “pit bull type” — a “type” of dog that is not legal in the U.K. Lennox had not actually done anything wrong; he was born looking “wrong.”

After two years of court battles, not even high-profile advocates and celebrities, tens of thousands of ordinary citizen supporters, and multiple sanctuary offers could save Lennox. Belfast refused to compromise. Lennox was killed yesterday by Belfast authorities simply for the crime of looking like a “pit bull.”

Lennox is not the only dog to be put down simply for being the wrong shape. We’ve shared with you many other individual dogs who have had the misfortune to be born with the wrong appearance in the wrong place. Breed discriminatory laws are everywhere, from cities in the U.S., to provinces like Ontario, to entire countries like the U.K. But although Lennox’s circumstances are not unique, he and his family had a large outpouring of public support that was quite unusual.

Lennox has become a symbol for many people of the injustice that is BSL. We also know that many people first heard about BSL because of Lennox.

We are hopeful that Lennox’s plight and the injustice to his human family, the Barnes family, leaves in his followers a legacy of awareness about BSL and a long-burning passion to stop BSL across the globe.

Our sympathies today are with the Barnes family and the many other families around the world who have lost friends, companions, and family dogs for no other reason than that their dog was born with the wrong physical appearance.

Breed discriminatory laws are in effect in many places. Innocent people and voiceless animals are suffering. If you haven’t already, please join us as we continue our efforts to stop BSL.

We appreciate these wise words from Animal Farm Foundation: “Every day there is a need — and an opportunity — to ‘Save Lennox.'”

More thoughtful commentary from KC Dog Blog: http://btoellner.typepad.com/kcdogblog/2012/07/lennox-the-dog-is-dead-and-the-power-of-channeled-passion.html

Miami-Dade County, FL: Breed ban will go to public vote, Aug 14

Update 7/12/12: Please note, Miami-Dade residents must be registered to vote by July 16 in order to vote on this ballot. More information: https://stopbsl.org/2012/07/12/miami-dade-county-fl-reminder-to-repeal-breed-ban-residents-must-register-to-vote-by-july-16/
(Thank you, Patrick Miracle, for prompting this reminder!)


Miami-Dade County will put its longstanding breed ban to a public vote on August 14.

The ballot question, which is terribly confusing to read, and contains bias (as expected), will be: “Shall the ordinance repealing the county’s 23 year old law prohibiting the ownership of pit bulls as a dangerous breed of dogs become effective?”

(Hint: Vote YES.)

All alerts for Miami-Dade County: https://stopbsl.org/?s=%22miami-dade+county%22

Miami-Dade pit-bull ban to go to voters in August

County commissioners placed Miami-Dade’s 23-year-old pit-bull ban on the August ballot, giving voters a say on the prohibition for the first time.

BY PATRICIA MAZZEI AND CHARLES RABIN
PMAZZEI@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Miami-Dade voters will get a say for the first time on the county’s ban on pit bulls, after county commissioners agreed on Tuesday to put the 23-year-old prohibition on the August ballot.

Commissioners approved the referendum on an 11-1 vote, with Commissioner Barbara Jordan voting against. […]

The question on the August 14 ballot will ask voters, “Shall the ordinance repealing the county’s 23 year old law prohibiting the ownership of pit bulls as a dangerous breed of dogs become effective?”

Pit-bull enthusiasts, who had preferred that the Legislature take action because it will likely be more difficult to repeal the ban by referendum, have objected to including the phrase “dangerous breed of dogs” in the ballot language. […]

Full article retrieved 5/2/12 from http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/01/2776226/miami-dade-commission-to-discuss.html

Maryland court ruling imposes strict liability on “pit bull” owners and landlords

You may have heard about the recent Maryland Court of Appeals ruling in Tracey v Solesky. We’ve been slow to cover this because 1) it’s not technically breed-specific legislation, 2) the news media has been (as usual) covering this ruling with a lot of sensation and useless non-information, and 3) as we are not lawyers, we needed to get a better understanding of what the ruling means and what can be done about it.

In Tracey, the Maryland Court of Appeals has imposed strict liability on “pit bull” owners and their landlords.

About Strict Liability

Many of you probably already live in one of the 35 states that impose some kind of strict liability on dog owners, regardless of their dog’s breed or appearance. In strict liability states, when a dog bites, the bite is the proof that the dog is “vicious” or “dangerous.” The dog owner is liable for any damage done by his or her dog, starting with the first bite. From our perspective, there’s nothing inherently wrong with strict liability. It holds dog owners legally responsible for their dogs’ behavior, which is what we want.

Maryland is not a strict liability state. Maryland, like some other states, applies a general negligence standard. You may have heard it called “one free bite.” That is, if a dog bite goes to court, the dog owner is not held responsible for the dog bite unless it can be proven that the owner knew their dog is dangerous. A first bite is considered a sufficient heads-up to the owner; after the first bite, the owner knows that their dog is dangerous. So a dog owner can be held liable when a second bite occurs.

Whether your state is strict liability or “one free bite” is typically decided by state legislation.

About the Ruling

In Tracey, the court basically changed the proof needed to show that an owner knew their dog is dangerous. Now, if a person knows that they own a “pit bull” (or any dog that is part “pit bull”), this is a sufficient heads-up that their dog is dangerous, and they can be held responsible at the first bite. In essence, Maryland “pit bull” owners are now strictly liable for their dogs.

While, again, we do not believe that strict liability is inherently wrong—and the majority of states already impose it anyway—the breed-specific nature of the Maryland Court of Appeal’s decision is absolutely wrong.

In particular, Maryland victims of non-pit bull dog bites should be outraged by this court decision. The ruling turns the majority of Maryland dog bite victims into second-class citizens. The legal recourses available to Maryland victims are now based entirely on what the dog that bit looks like. Only bite victims where the dog looked like a “pit bull” will have strict liability recourse—everyone else has to continue to live with the “one free bite” rule.

As the dissenting judges point out in their opinion: “Conversely, any other breed of dog in the possession of the owner or on premises controlled by the landlord, no matter how violent, apparently, would be judged by a different standard.” The ruling neither promotes public safety nor treats the public fairly. If the court considers strict liability a safer and more effective option than the current “one free bite” common law, and it truly wanted to improve things, it should have made strict liability appropriate for all dog owners, regardless of their dog’s appearance.

The other twist in this case is the imposition of strict liability on landlords. Again, in many states, landlords are already liable for injuries that occur on their property, but they are not usually considered to be liable for injuries that are caused by their tenants when off their property. This particular part of the ruling is perplexing to this non-lawyer. I do not know of any other law or ruling that is similar.

From the dissenting opinion: “Under the new rule announced today, however, the only corrective action an owner, keeper, or landlord could possibly take to avoid liability for the harm caused to another by a pit bull or mixed breed pit bull is not to possess or allow possession of this specific breed of dog on the premises.” Consequently, we expect renters with “pit bull”-looking dogs to be hit particularly hard by this decision.

Also notable are the pieces of evidence used to support the majority decision in this case. In this day and age, it’s appalling to see a court ruling influenced by flawed, fifteen-year-old statistics; non-scientific garbage published by self-proclaimed “experts”; news media articles; and previous court rulings based on the same flawed information (like the 3000 psi jaw strength myth).  You can read the majority and dissenting opinions here, but you might want a strong drink beforehand: http://www.wbaltv.com/blob/view/-/12161754/data/1/-/861vm0z/-/Tracey-v–Solesky–PDF-.pdf

Effects of the ruling

The term “pit bull” was left undefined by the court, so expect incredibly broad interpretation. The ruling could potentially apply to any dog that looks like a pit bull or that someone thinks is a pit bull, even if it’s not.

If you have a “pit bull” or “pit bull mix” (or a dog that someone thinks is a pit bull) AND it bites someone, you can be held strictly liable for the bite in court. **Again, I repeat, strict liability is a fact of life in most other U.S. states. The big difference here is that in MD, your dog’s appearance will determine whether strict liability applies, whereas in other states, it doesn’t matter what your dog looks like.**

If you are a renter, and your dog appears to be a “pit bull,” your landlord may not want the added liability and may disallow your dog. The HSUS is the only group thus far (that I have found) that has issued some important information about MD renters’ rights to help you if you find yourself in this situation. http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2012/04/Maryland_pitbull_042812.html

If you are bitten by a dog, it is to your advantage to call the dog a “pit bull” or “pit bull mix.” This will make the court case a lot easier, and recovery under strict liability will be more certain. (For this same reason, expect an increase in court cases involving “pit bulls.”)

Many MD animal shelters have reportedly stopped adopting out dogs that appear to be “pit bulls” as a result of this ruling. We are not sure why these shelters are doing this. It does not logically follow from the ruling—shelters still adopt out dogs in strict liability states. If someone can explain why, please leave a comment. At any rate, expect shelter kill rates to increase if these no-adopt policies persist.

What Can We Do About It?

Because this ruling is not technically BSL—it is not legislation and has not followed a typical process for creating, considering, and voting on it—it can’t be fought through the typical channels that we would fight BSL.

The state Assembly has the power to pass a law that would prohibit the courts from treating people differently in such cases. Such a law could negate the court ruling. It’s doubtful that the Assembly would pass such a law, however.

Maryland residents can get involved immediately by contacting their state delegates and senators and expressing their displeasure with the court ruling. You may also ask your delegate or senator if they would consider passing a law that would negate the ruling. When you correspond, please remain respectful. Remember, state legislators didn’t make this decision.

Please consider, too, that your letter to your lawmaker will be more convincing if you focus on the discrimination that this court has instituted against victims. Neither bite victims nor dog owners should be held to disparate legal standards based on something as superficial as the appearance of dog involved. To do so victimizes the bite victim twice: once when bitten, and again when the dog owner is not held responsible, just because their dog doesn’t look like a “pit bull.”

You can find your state Assembly members here: http://mdelect.net/

Pit Bulletin Legal News will be hosting a discussion about the ruling on Tuesday evening, May 1, at 8:00 PM. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pit-bulletin-legal-news/2012/05/02/weekly-discussion-of-pit-bull-news–our-first-broadcast

Last weeks MD Ruling – What does it mean? How will it change things? What can be done? We’ve heard your questions…TUNE IN to Pit Bulletin Legal News Radio tomorrow night at 8:00 PM as host Fred Kray addresses the ruling. We’ll be taking your calls during the show! 646-595-4137 Or you can email your questions BEFORE the show to: pitbulletinlegalnewsradio@gmail.com

Pit Bulletin Legal News also has a good summary of the ruling, and various links to news articles.
http://www.pitbulletinlegalnews.com/breaking-news/124-maryland-highest-court-creates-strict-liability-for-pit-bulls

I would like to reiterate that I’m not a lawyer or a judge. Therefore, I’m unfamiliar with the ways in which court rulings and precedents affect the rest of the legal system. It’s possible that I’ve explained things somewhat incorrectly above (though I doubt I could do worse than the news coverage of this ruling). I apologize for any incorrect explanations. Please leave any corrections—or clearer explanations, especially if you’re a lawyer and can share some insight—in the comment section.