Talks on repeal turn to talks on MORE regulation in El Dorado, Kansas

Somehow I don’t think this is what residents had in mind when discussions regarding repealing the city’s twenty-six year old pit bull ban came up in El Dorado, Kansas earlier this year.

As a reminder, I was contacted by a resident of El Dorado, Kansas in February with news that her city commissioners had agreed to entertain discussions on repealing the city’s pit bull ban.

The ordinance, Title 6 § 20.040, which was enacted in 1988, states as follows:

It is unlawful to keep, harbor, own or in any way possess within the corporate limits of the city any pit bull dog as defined by administrative regulation; provided that pit bull dogs properly registered with the city by March 1, 1988, and kept within the city continuously since that time, may remain within the city subject to the requirements set forth in Section 6.20.060 of this chapter.

When I spoke with the City Manager’s assistant in February, she confirmed that  commissioners agreed to take up the issue and set a date for holding a work session which would be geared toward collecting, distributing and discussing information that would help the commissioners conduct their due diligence on the matter.

In a news report today, however, we learned that the city commission has tabled discussions on repealing the ban on pit bulls and, instead,  have now started researching other breeds to be regulated.  In fact, the public works director indicated that up to 12 dog breeds are being researched, including Doberman Pinscher, chow, German Shepherd, Rottweiler and others.

Please reach out to the El Dorado city officials and encourage them to reinstate their discussions related to removing the breed specific language from their current ordinance. Let them know that a strongly enforced breed-neutral ordinance that deems dogs dangerous based on their actions and behaviors and holds dog owners accountable for those actions is the best way to ensure the safety and welfare of all who reside in El Dorado, both people and animals.

As always, please keep your communications with city officials polite and respectful – the manner in which we conduct ourselves can and does make a difference.

City of El Dorado, Kansas City Commissioners:
Bill Young:   young.bill@cox.net
Chase Locke:   commissionerlocke@eldoks.com
Nick Badwey:   Nbadwey@cox.net
David Chapin:   flyboy958@hotmail.com

Sioux City, Iowa amends pit bull ban to give rescue dogs hope for adoption

Officials in Sioux City, Iowa have given final approval to an amendment to the city’s pit bull ban which was passed in 2008.  The council voted 5-0 on Monday in favor of allowing approved animal rescue groups to bring pit bull-type dogs into Sioux City for adoption events and veterinary care.

Noah’s Hope, the rescue organization that asked the council to consider the exemption, has no plans to keep pit bulls within city limits.  Rather, the move is an effort to help adoptable dogs get more exposure via outreach and adoption events where they can interact with the public and, hopefully, find new homes.

Currently, dogs that meet the description of “pit bull” stay in rescue or foster care for extended periods of time simply because they get little to no exposure to people looking to add canine companions to their families. I can tell you from personal experience, dogs housed in rescues that are located in rural areas have much less exposure to potential adopters and, therefore, can stay in foster care for months on end. To compound the matter, several communities around Sioux City ban or regulate the ownership of pit bulls, making adoption for highly adoptable dogs even more difficult.

City staff said they will only grant exemptions to agencies on an as-needed basis, and the amendment allows the city manager to set written terms with each rescue organization, which can be revoked if the terms of the agreement are broken.

In response to the very few concerns raised about the proposal, Councilwoman Rhonda Capron made it clear the move is to give adoptable dogs a “new lease on life,” and did not represent a step to reverse the city’s ban.

Of course, we’d all love to see Sioux City repeal its discriminatory ordinance, and I know we have advocates there who will never stop trying to bring positive change. For now, though, I’m happy to hear that rescue dogs that previously had very limited opportunities to find new forever homes now have a door of hope opened for them.

Breed specific law one option being considered in Holmes County, MS

The subject of breed bans has been a hot topic in Mississippi in the last few weeks. As usual, most of the “debate” seems to be generated by the media in order to garner a response from the public and generally stir up an always controversial subject.

However, in one area, the issue of banning “pit bulls” has been formally proposed.  In our post of April 3, 2014, we advised that the sheriff of Holmes County planned to seek a ban on pit bulls after a fatal mauling in Thornton, an unincorporated community located in Holmes County.  At the Board of Supervisors meeting last week, he did just that.

I spoke with the county administrator who confirmed the Board of Supervisors was indeed considering making changes to the current animal control laws.  She advised officials were doing their due diligence to determine whether they want to pursue a generic vicious dog ordinance or an ordinance targeting specific breeds of dogs. She also advised that since all options were on the table, county officials welcomed input and information from residents as to the development of any new law.

During our discussion, Ms. Joiner and I addressed the issue of irresponsible dog ownership, and agreed on the significant role problem owners play with respect to dangerous and/or problematic dogs in the community.

Residents of Holmes County have an opportunity to work with their elected officials in crafting an ordinance that will work to enhance the safety and welfare of ALL who live in the community, both people and animals. Please encourage your county representatives to pursue a vicious dog ordinance that deems dogs dangerous based on their behavior and actions while holding irresponsible owners who allow or encourage their dogs to create problems and/or cause harm accountable for the actions of their dogs. Please also encourage educational programs for children, and incentives that would encourage responsible ownership.

Please keep in mind that Holmes County has the third lowest per capita income in the state of Mississippi, and the 41st lowest in the United States, which means funding for the enforcement of any animal control ordinance and associated programs will be extremely small.  In that respect, citizens who offer their time and efforts to help develop and carry out educational programs, such as dog bite prevention or obedience training, would really go a long way and make a big impact in the community.  Working together, you can make an incredibly positive impact on the people and the animals who live in Holmes County.

E-mail contact information is not available for the individual county supervisors, but you may send your polite and respectful letters and suggestions encouraging the county to focus on problem dog owners rather than specific breeds to the county administrator via an online form found here or to cjoiner@holmescountyms.org  with a request to forward to each supervisor.

Holmes County, Mississippi
P. O. Box 239
408 Court Square
Lexington, MS 39095

(662) 834-0911 (Office)
(662) 834-3345 (Fax)

 

 

Memphis, Michigan considering repealing pit bull ordinance

An ordinance in Memphis, Michigan prohibits “pit bulls” in the city limits, but Mayor Daniel Weaver would like to change that.

Weaver formally made a proposal to repeal the city’s pit bull ordinance at the April 15 city council meeting.  The mayor voiced his concerns about focusing on a certain breed rather than owners of aggressive dogs regardless of breed, and he presented a memo to officials outlining his views on the current pit bull ordinance.  In his memo he stated, “The truth is, when a dog attacks a human being or another animal it is the dog owners, and not the dogs that need to be blamed. They are responsible for the dog’s behavior.”

Ordinance No. 123 Chapter 110, section 9.63 states:

The City Council of the city of Memphis finds that pit bull dogs pose an inherent threat to the public health, safety, and welfare; therefore declaring it’s unlawful for any person to keep, harbor, possess, walk on a leash or allow any pit bull dog at any time within the corporate limits of the city of Memphis.

Weaver advised the council he’d like to see the pit bull ordinance changed into an ‘Aggressive Animal Registration’ ordinance because he feels aggressive dogs can be of any breed, and a dog that has displayed aggressive behavior should be registered with the city.  He further explained this move would help fire and police officials who respond to calls of residents because they would be aware before arriving at a residence if an “aggressive animal” lived there.

Other issues that could be incorporated into a new ordinance include sterilization of dogs deemed aggressive, educating dog owners on responsible ownership practices, and making sure dog owners know their responsibilities and holding them accountable if their dog causes harm, regardless of breed.

Members of the city council voted to send the issue to the city’s advisory committee for study and a recommendation.

If you live in or around Memphis, Michigan, please reach out to officials there and encourage them to repeal the city’s pit bull ordinance and replace it a law that holds dog owners accountable for the actions of their dogs, and one in which dogs are deemed dangerous based on their actions or behaviors, rather than their breed.  You might also want to send them a copy of the NAIA Guide to Constructing Pet Friendly Ordinances which will lay the groundwork for an ordinance that will enhance the safety and welfare of all who reside in Memphis.

Family wins court case against Village of Swanton, Ohio!

A Fulton County Eastern District Court judge today dismissed a case against Swanton resident, Tim Bork, who was charged with failing to register a “vicious” dog after an official identified the dog as belonging to a breed regulated by the Village code.

The case, which was filed with the court in July, centered around a dog named Bailey owned by the Bork family and wrongly identified as a “pit bull-type” dog by the acting county dog warden.   After several months of back and forth, the Village’s legal counsel finally filed a motion to dismiss, admitting there was not enough evidence to prove that Bailey fit within the parameters set by Swanton’s ordinance that determines how dogs are deemed vicious.

Despite the state’s move away from breed-specific language in 2012, the Village of Swanton maintains an ordinance labeling as vicious “any breed of dog that is commonly known as a ‘pit bull dog.’”

In this regard, Acting Fulton County Dog Warden Brian Banister visited the Bork home last June, and after a visual inspection, he told Mr. Bork that Bailey was “likely a Brazilian mastiff mix, also known as a Fila Brasileiro.  Banister further advised Mr. Bork that he considered Bailey to be a ‘pit bull-type” breed because of her large head and brindle color and, therefore, the city’s breed specific ordinance applied to Bailey.

Swanton’s ordinance states:

Vicious dog has the same meaning as set forth in ORC 955.11 and shall include in addition any breed of dog that is commonly known as a ‘pit bull dog.’ This includes any Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog or mixed breed of dog which contains, as an element of its breeding, the breed of Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Perro De Canario, aka the Canary Dog.

Fila Brasileiro, the breed of dog Banister identified Bailey to be, is not one of the breeds specifically named in Swanton’s ordinance.

Nevertheless, the Bork family was given 30 days to complete a canine good citizen class that would allow them to obtain liability insurance, which must be shown when the dog is registered with the police department.  Despite knowing Bailey was not a breed of dog specifically regulated by the Village, the Borks still undertook initial steps to comply with the law out of the fear of losing their dog.

At the same time, the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates challenged the Village’s dog ordinance, saying it is vague and puts an undue burden on its dog-owning residents.

According to Acting Dog Warden Banister, this was the second time the Village  asked for his opinion on a dog’s breed.  According to Banister, only the police department has the authority to enforce the law, and he is utilized for his opinion about breed.

Banister further advised that in this particular case, it was his opinion that Bailey “absolutely is” a pit bull type dog.

A DNA test (commissioned by The Toledo Blade) revealed that Bailey is a mix of American bulldog, Rottweiler, American Staffordshire terrier, black and tan coonhound, Coton de Tulear, bull terrier, Neapolitan mastiff, and miniature pinscher.  She is less than 50 percent “pit bull,” which was the standard that previous court cases have used in determining whether a dog is a “pit bull”-type.  Ohio’s dangerous and vicious dog law, which was revised after the passage of House Bill 14, went into effect in May 2012, and it defines a vicious dog as one that, without provocation has killed or caused serious injury to any person.

Appearance or breed is no longer mentioned in any section of Ohio state law, which now focuses on behavior.

Even though the Swanton city administrator requested the Village attorney review the language of the ordinance, which was last revised in 2010, he defended the Village’s position, saying they had the right to enforce their own ordinances.

At the time of our original post back in June 2013, Village officials indicated they were reviewing the existing ordinance to determine whether it needed to be updated but, to date, they have not changed or amended the ordinance in any way.

As such, the Fulton County Dog Warden continues to treat “pit bulls” and “pit bull” mixes as inherently vicious and will not adopt out the dogs to the general public or allow rescue groups to take them.  Stray “pit bulls” that are not claimed by their owners are euthanized.  Dogs in Swanton continue to be judged based on their appearance or perceived breed, said identification being based on the opinion of whomever happens to be making the determination at the time.

What’s happening in Swanton illustrates very clearly how arbitrary and subjective breed specific laws are.  Under a breed discriminatory ordinance, breed is ALWAYS in the eye of the beholder.  If a different dog warden were utilized in the Bork case, and that warden determined that Bailey was simply a “mixed breed” dog, this entire situation would never have occurred, and that is simply unfair, unjust and unacceptable and should be truly offensive to ALL dog owners.

The Borks have been sending me periodic updates on their situation, and I’m thrilled for their victory, and relieved to know that Bailey is safe, and her family will not be forced to adhere to a discriminatory law that imposes undue hardship on responsible dog owners.

That being said, it’s troubling that Swanton is still enforcing a breed specific ordinance, and dogs having a certain appearance continue to be targeted.  I am hopeful, however, that with the help of the recent ruling by the Third District Court of Appeals in City of Lima v. Stepleton, in which the Court declared the city’s breed specific provisions unconstitutional because they conflict with state law, that Swanton residents will continue their efforts to repeal the Village’s breed specific law and bring the city in compliance with state law.

Responsible dog owners should not have to live in fear of losing their family companions due to discriminatory  laws that rely solely upon the subjective judgment of those chosen to enforce it, and I send my heartfelt appreciation, as well as congratulations, to the Bork family for taking a stand on this very important issue.   As they look into Bailey’s eyes tonight, they will know they made a difference - not only for their family, but for other responsible dog owners in Swanton, as well.

Swanton

Bailey and her family on their victory walk this afternoon!

South Bend, IN: Town Hall Meeting on proposed changes to animal control ordinance – including removal of BSL

Officials in South Bend, Indiana have been working on changes to their animal control laws that will better protect animals and the public.

As part of an effort to rewrite the city’s municipal code, we learned in May 2013, that  the city council created a committee to discuss issues involving the care and control of animals.  The members of that committee have been reviewing and making suggested changes to the animal control code, and one of the proposed changes is the elimination of the section of the law that pertains to the regulation of pit bulls.

Pit bull owners in South Bend are currently required to license their dogs with the city, obtain liability insurance, adhere to strict confinement and muzzling regulations, provide photographs, and tattoo or microchip their dogs.

The current city code automatically deems American Pit Bull Terriers as “dangerous” and defines a “pit bull” as follows:

The breed of dog registered and described by the United Kennel Club (UKC) and the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) 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 (AKC).

Councilwoman Valerie Schey, who sponsored the move to update the code, and is heading the committee, says updating the entire animal control code is necessary because the current law was written almost twenty years ago, and it is not only outdated, but its vague, making it difficult to enforce and to understand.

The intended goal of the committee is to bring the entire chapter up to today’s standard of care.  Schey also believes, as is reflected in her desire to remove the breed specific language from the ordinance, that dogs should be judged dangerous by their temperament and actions, NOT their breed.

Some other changes to the city code being considered include a universal leash law, requiring a special license for dogs deemed dangerous by their actions, as well as requiring those dogs to be spayed or neutered. Also under consideration is the elimination of the current limit on the number of pets in a household, as well as tethering limitations.

A town hall meeting is planned for Thursday, April 17, 2014 at the Martin Luther King Center at 5:30 p.m., and citizens are encouraged to attend and learn more about the proposed changes.  You can click on the below flyer for contact and additional information about the meeting.

South Bend3

South Bend residents, please continue to encourage your city officials to move forward with the proposed changes to create a community that enhances the safety and welfare of both people and animals.  In addition, please let Councilwoman Schey know you support her efforts to bring positive change to South Bend.

South Bend Common Council
227 West Jefferson Blvd.,
Suite 400 S
South Bend, Indiana 46601
(574) 235-9321

E-mail for the council as a whole:
ccouncil@southbendin.gov

 

Riverside, AL: Officials discuss possible leash law, breed ban

Officials in Riverside, Alabama are contemplating passing a leash law after a child was killed by an unleashed dog last week.  During Tuesday’s city council meeting, the floor was open to the public, allowing anyone to voice their concerns about the city’s potential plans.

A resident brought up the issue of banning vicious dogs, specifically naming “pit bulls,” and citing inaccurate information about the breed, and it would appear that all suggestions brought up at the meeting are currently on the table.

The mayor acknowledged that city leaders have to sift through many details before bringing an ordinance to the table, and he wanted to hear from people on both sides of the issues – including enacting a leash law and banning specific breeds of dogs. He added that the law will include steep fines for anyone who violates it.

The mayor hopes to have an initial reading and vote on a proposed ordinance by the first city council meeting in May.

Residents of Riverside need to reach out to their city officials NOW, before an ordinance is introduced, with their suggestions and input.  Encourage them to pass and strictly enforce a leash law, and hold reckless and irresponsible dog owners accountable for the actions of their dogs. In addition, let them know that breed specific legislation will only create more problems for the city while, at the same time, instilling a false sense of security for residents.

An excellent reference to share with city officials is the NAIA’s Guide to Constructing Pet Friendly Ordinances which will lay the groundwork for an ordinance that will enhance the safety and welfare of ALL the members of the Riverside community, people and animals alike.