After much hard work, officials in South Bend, Indiana, have voted on the new animal control ordinance that includes the repeal of the long-standing breed discriminatory law. They voted unanimously to pass the new law and repeal the outdated breed discriminatory law.
Passed in 1987, the law restricted American Pit Bull Terriers and those resembling this breed only. The ordinance was very clear in the definition that American Pit Bull Terrier was defined as the UKC (United Kennel Club) and ADBA (American Dog Breeders Association) standard.
” American Pit Bull Terrier means the breed of dog registered and described by the United Kennel Club (U.K.C) and the American Dog Breeders Association (A.D.B.A.) as the American Pit Bull Terrier, also known as the pit bull terrier, and any crossbreed of the American Pit Bull Terrier; but does not include the breeds known as the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the English Bulldog, the Bull Terrier, or the Bulldog, all of which are recognized by the American Kennel Club (A.K.C.).”
This particular definition had proven to be completely unenforceable considering that it specifically excluded so many breeds and types that are typically lumped into the definition of “pit bull.”
The repeal is not surprising, considering the breadth of the ordinance that is taking its place. A work group was formed over a year ago to study the issue and the current law, and to draft changes. The group took their time, forming a new law based on best practices in the industry regarding the care and control of all animals.
Councilwoman Valerie Schey took the issue on head first, recognizing, based on municipal statistics, that the current animal control ordinance wasn’t working to do what was intended. The changes to the ordinance began in early 2013.
Interestingly, the animal control changes coincided with the dismissal of the long time head of animal control back in April of 2013. In a local story on the dismissal, Schey commented that “Even though we’ve made significant strides in the care we provide with the new building, I still don’t feel the (euthanasia) numbers are where they need to be.”
Though the media made it seem like the issue of repeal was a hotly contested one, there were no speakers in favor of keeping the old breed discriminatory law at the meeting.
To say the new animal control ordinance is a comprehensive one would be an understatement. The ordinance covers breeding practices, standards for animal related businesses, animal based entertainment, husbandry issues for all kinds of animals, from horses to bees. There are detailed definitions for dangerous, potentially dangerous and vicious animals. There are additions to the law that outline the standard of care for animal owners. Specific to dogs, there are tethering provisions, husbandry issues addressed and a more detailed dangerous dog law that includes due process for owners, which had been seriously lacking in the old law.
The ordinance is 60 pages and contains some fabulous provisions that will make South Bend a safer and more humane community, which was the goal of Schey when she undertook this project.
South Bend also highlights another issue we have seen recently where proponents of breed discriminatory laws have been interfering with the local legislative process. We are aware of several well-known pro-BDL advocates, who live out-of-state, that wrote to the legislators misrepresenting themselves as residents. This has become a recent trend that can be seen in other municipalities as well, Riverside and Pasadena, California, Aurora, Colorado and Missouri are just a few of the other places these tactics are being used. These people, however are increasingly being seen for what they are, as residents come forward and dominate the conversation, overwhelmingly against breed discriminatory laws. Councils are more aware than ever that this handful of people, and the groups they represent, are using these tactics in an attempt to sway the conversation, but have no presence in the actual community.
We would like to congratulate Councilwoman Schey for her hard work in crafting the new law, and setting South Bend on the path to becoming a model city for animal care and control.