Playing catch-up…several updates and news!

I’ve been a little behind in getting some updates out over the past few weeks.  The warm weather adds some extra chores to my workload, and my crunch for time can be best summed up in four words… BIG yard, push mower.

So without further delay, here’s the rundown of updates from the last few weeks…

Washington Court House, Ohio

On July 24, 2014, the city council in Washington Court House, Ohio voted UNANIMOUSLY to repeal the breed specific language related to pit bulls in their animal control ordinance.  The change easily passed the three required votes of the council, and effective immediately, the city’s law no longer targets pit bull-type dogs.

Reynoldsburg, Ohio

After more than a year of debate and months of work by a committee revising the ordinance that regulates pit bull-type dogs in the city of Reynoldsburg, the city council decided to change absolutely nothing. Only Councilman Daniel Skinner voted in favor of changing the ordinance banning pit bulls.

Pit bulls have been banned in Reynoldsburg since 1996, and the law automatically deems all pit bulls as “ vicious.”  Keeping a pit bull in the city is a second-degree misdemeanor.

Tammy Nortman, a Dayton-based lawyer representing several residents who’ve been cited for owning pit bulls, said the group might consider legal action against the city. She’s already working to defend owners who say their dogs were labeled pit bulls based on an arbitrary and incomplete set of criteria.

State of Delaware

On July 31, 2014, Delaware Governor Markell signed several animal protection bills to strengthen animal control laws and improve the safety and welfare of all who reside in the state – people and animals. The newly signed bills (1) strengthen the state’s vicious dog laws in order to protect citizens, as well as animals; (2) establish oversight and training programs for animal shelters and prohibit shelters from using gas chambers; (3) protect animals seized in criminal activity, cruelty, and animal fighting from automatic euthanasia and requires them to be individually evaluated by trained personnel; and (4) require training for animal control officers and investigators.

Carroll County, Mississippi

In early July, officials in Carroll County, Mississippi passed an ordinance, on its introduction and only reading, that regulates the ownership of “pit bulls.” The ordinance requires owners of pit bulls to: Spay/neuter their dogs; adhere to specific confinement regulations (both indoor and outdoor); muzzling requirements; and obtain liability insurance.  In addition, no dwelling may have more than three dogs that bear the appearance of a “pit bull.”  The ordinance is set to go into effect on August 9, 2014.

Because this ordinance was drafted and passed so quickly, with no resident input, I would encourage residents to bring this issue back to the council in order to engage in a true debate where all sides can be heard and considered.

Aurora, Colorado

The Aurora city council approved the addition of a question to the November ballot that will put the fate of the city’s pit bull ordinance in the hands of voters.  The city ordinance, passed in 2005, bans residents from owning pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers that are not service dogs.  The council approved the ballot measure with a 5-4 vote, and has until August 25 to formally adopt the measure to put on the November ballot.

Wellsville, Kansas

At the city council meeting in May, residents of Wellsville, Kansas presented information to officials about the problems associated with breed specific laws, and asked the city council to consider repealing the city’s breed specific ordinance.  In response, a public hearing was held in order to allow residents to voice their opinions on the proposal.  The hearing was well attended, with many residents asking the council to target problem dog owners rather than specific breeds of dogs.

Nevertheless, on July 9, 2014, the city council voted 4-1 to keep its ordinance banning Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Terriers from the city limits. Councilmen Dave Edwards, Cory Cunningham, Jared Eggleston and Dave Rogers voted in favor of keeping the ban, with Mike McAfee casting the lone vote to repeal it.

fort thomas, Kentucky

After weeks of debate on whether to repeal the 26 year-old-pit bull ordinance in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, the city council decided on August 4 to keep the ban in place.  Despite announcing at the last meeting on July 7 that the council planned to hold additional public forums on the issue, and having received a majority of positive response from residents to move forward with repeal, the council made its decision based on recent incidents in neighboring Ohio.

However, the Safety Committee did recommend the current ordinance on pit bulls be reviewed in the future for possible changes, and council members indicated they would likely bring the issue up again.

New Llano, Louisiana

A federal judge barred enforcement of a ban on pit bull-type dogs in the town of New Llano until she hears a challenge to the ordinance. The lawsuit was brought by Victor and Christine Nelson, whose dog, Mazzy, was seized by the town after a DNA test indicated she is half American Staffordshire terrier. The Nelson’s lawsuit says the ordinance violates equal protection, property and due process rights by letting the town seize the dogs and put them to death.

In addition to barring enforcement of the law, the judge’s Order also allowed the Nelsons to bring Mazzy home from the boarding facility where she has been for nine months.  The breed specific ordinance passed in March 2013 bans “dogs that have the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of dogs known as Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier.”  The Nelsons moved to New Llano in August 2013.

A trial date is expected to be set soon.

Missouri Valley, Iowa

In June, a Missouri Valley resident asked the city council to amend its pit bull ordinance after his dog was seized by police. He presented a petition to the council, and they decided to explore changes that could allow pit bulls to reside in city limits with certain restrictions.

According to the minutes of the subsequent council meeting, city officials agreed that the manner in which a dog is raised, as well as irresponsible ownership practices lead to “vicious” dogs, but because all dog owners are not responsible, the council stated they “had to consider the overall impact” of amending the ordinance.

Councilman Ratliff motioned to deny the request to amend the ordinance, and the motion carried on a 3-1 vote, with only Councilman Isom voting in favor of amending the law.

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior releases position paper on BSL

Based on their concern over the propensity of various communities’ reliance on breed specific legislation (BSL) as a tool to decrease the risk of dog bites to humans, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) has published a new position paper in which they reject its use.

The AVSAB holds the position that breed specific legislation is “ineffective, and can lead to a false sense of community safety, as well as welfare concerns for dogs identified (often incorrectly) as belonging to specific breeds.”

The AVSAB acknowledged the critical importance of the reduction of dog bites in communities, and stressed that “responsible dog ownership and public education must be a primary focus of any dog bite prevention policy.”  

The well-researched paper breaks down the issues surrounding dog bites and breed specific legislation in the following categories:

  • Facts About Dog Bites;
  • What is Breed Specific Legislation?;
  • What Breeds Bite?
  • Breed Misidentification;
  • Why Do Dogs Bite
  • Results of Breed Specific Legislation; and
  • What Does Work? Effective Ways to Reduce the Incidence of Aggression.

The final page of the paper is dedicated to citations that backup the research and opinions set forth therein.

This is a strong position paper with sound arguments against the use of breed specific legislation as an effective means of animal control.

Both KC Dog Blog and Steve Dale have summarized the new paper, and it can be found in its entirety here. 

El Dorado, KS: Residents say “NO” to proposed dangerous breed list; continue push to repeal long-standing pit bull ban

Back in February, I was contacted by a resident of El Dorado, Kansas with news that her city commissioners had agreed to entertain discussions on repealing the city’s pit bull ban. She asked for support in encouraging her city leaders to replace their breed specific ordinance with a law that deems dogs dangerous based on their behavior, and targets irresponsible and negligent owners whose create problem dogs in a community.

The current ordinance, Title 6 § 20.040, 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 the commissioners would be to holding a work session geared toward collecting, distributing and discussing information that will help the commissioners conduct their due diligence on the issue, and it was considered a positive sign that the commissioners agreed to take up the twenty-six year old ban.

However, the optimism residents felt was replaced with frustration when we learned in April that the city commission tabled the discussions on repealing the ban on pit bulls and, instead, actually began researching additional breeds to be regulated by the city. At that time, the public works director indicated that up to 12 dog breeds were being researched, including Doberman Pinscher, chow, German Shepherd, Rottweiler and others.

At this week’s commissioners meeting on Monday, August 4, dozens of residents voiced their strong opposition to the proposal to not only retain the current breed specific law, but to implement regulations including an annual registration fee, mandatory microchipping, sterilization, and liability insurance for additional breeds the city deemed “dangerous.”

Fortunately, the opposition to the establishment of a “dangerous breed list” wasn’t limited to residents. Some commissioners said they, too, did not support the list created by city staff because it doesn’t acknowledge the dogs who actually are problematic but, instead, punishes all dogs.

An alternate proposal of city staff is a three-strike system where pet owners would be required to pay significant fines for the first and second incident before the animal is removed from the city, as well as good registration programs, altering, or microchipping.

No decisions were made on Monday night, and the commissioners advised they will continue to research the matter.

Please continue to reach out to the El Dorado city commissions to (1) thank them for considering repealing the city’s long-standing pit bull ordinance and (2) encourage them to replace the existing ordinance with a breed-neutral law that has a strong focus on irresponsible dog owners, and deems dogs dangerous based on their behavior, not their breed.

El Dorado City Commissioners:

Bill Young:   young.bill@cox.net
Chase Locke:   commissionerlocke@eldoks.com
Nick Badwey:   Nbadwey@cox.net
David Chapin:   flyboy958@hotmail.com

City of El Dorado
220 E 1st Street
El Dorado, KS 67042
(316) 321-9100
Fax: (316) 321-6282
cityclerk@city.eldoks.com

Councilman submits proposal targeting “pit bulls” in Cincinnati, Ohio

A councilman in Cincinnati, Ohio says pit bull owners should be required to register their dogs as part of his proposed public policy to address vicious dogs in the city.  Christopher Smitherman, chairman of the city council’s Law and Public Safety Committee, submitted his proposed legislation on Friday to do just that.

The proposal would create an Animal Task Force and require registration of all pit bulls, evidence that owners have obtained liability insurance; and evidence that the dog has a microchip. Owners found not following these guidelines would be charged with a civil offense and financial penalties.

Smitherman said he hopes the Cincinnati council will have a hearing on his proposal in September.   Any changes must be voted on by the council before they could go into effect.

The proposal comes two years after Ohio moved away from breed-specific vicious dog labels.  Current state law defines a dangerous dog based on behavior, not breed.   While two state legislators have said the law isn’t tough enough, they are seeking solutions to strengthen the state law without targeting any specific breed of dog.  They have held discussions on topics such as harsher penalties; how to target problem dog owners; and whether to set standards for posted warnings about dangerous dogs.

Councilman Smitherman says his proposal targets irresponsible owners of vicious dogs and holds those owners responsible for any injury caused by a ‘vicious’ dog.   We, of course, have no issue with making the law stronger and targeting problem dog owners, but irresponsible owners are not limited to one breed of dog, and reinstating restrictions on pit bulls will not resolve the city’s problems. However, public education and strict enforcement of  a strong breed-neutral law have been proven to work time and time again.

The failure to address the actions of all irresponsible dog owners, as opposed to sweeping everyone who owns a certain breed into one category (the good, as well as the bad), will only result in problem owners gravitating to other breeds where they will continue to be just as irresponsible, while penalizing those who have done absolutely nothing other than be responsible dog owners.

Cincinnati residents, please reach out to your city officials NOW and let them know you support making the law stronger by holding each and every owner accountable for the actions of their dogs, but targeting specific breeds is a flawed theory that the city has already experienced first-hand.  Any solution should come in the form of a breed-neutral law that is strictly enforced and backed up with public education programs in order to make a real and lasting impact on the entire community.

Troy, MO: Family fights to keep their dog after being given 10 days to “get rid of” him

A family in Troy, Missouri is fighting to keep their pit bull after they were told by police that they had to “get rid of” him because the municipal code prohibits “pit bulls” from residing in the city. The Frank family received a notice from Troy police on Thursday that they had 10 days to remove the dog from the city or risk facing further consequences.

The Franks got their dog, Moby, several years ago, and they say he helps their son, Logan, deal with autism. They even have a letter from their son’s autism specialist that supports their claim.

Section 205.065 of the Troy city code states as follows:

It shall be unlawful to keep, harbor, own or in any way possess within the corporate limits of the City of Troy, Missouri, any pit bull dog, provided that pit bull dogs residing in the City on the effective date of this Section may be kept within the City subject to the standards and requirements herein set forth.

The ordinance defines a “Pit bull dog” as:

1. Staffordshire bull terrier breed of dog;
2. The American pit bull terrier breed of dog;
3. The American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog;
4. Any mixed breed of dog which contains as an element of its breeding the breed of Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or American pit bull terrier as to be identifiable as partially of the breed of Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or American pit bull terrier.
5. Any dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier and other breed commonly known as pit bulls, pit bull dogs or pit bull terriers or a combination of any of these breeds.

The Franks think the city’s ordinance is unfair and discriminatory. They believe dogs are a product of their environment and upbringing, and no breed of dog should be banned.

A city alderman told the news outlet covering the story that the Franks could reach out to the board at its next meeting to see if they were eligible for a “variance,” an official order that would let them keep their dog.

A board meeting is scheduled for tonight, Monday, August 4.

In the summer of 2012, Troy residents asked the Board of Aldermen to repeal their breed specific ordinance and enact a breed-neutral law that focuses on reckless and irresponsible dog owners.  Advocates presented facts, statistics, and excellent arguments in support of their request. Unfortunately, the Board voted to keep the breed specific ordinance in place. Councilwoman Lisa Anderson was the only member to vote in favor of repeal, and Ms. Anderson is still on the Board.

If you live in or around Troy, please try to attend the Board of Aldermen meeting to show your support for the Frank family and, hopefully, rekindle talks of repealing a discriminatory law that penalizes responsible dog owners for nothing other than the appearance of their dog.  The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

Opportunity for repeal of decades-old pit bull ordinance in Mount Gilead, Ohio

The Village of Mount Gilead, Ohio is considering repealing its decades-old pit bull ban after the issue was brought before the council by residents.

At the council meeting on June 16, 2014, Attorney Andrew Wick and his wife, Laura, supplied packets of information with studies from the American Humane Society, Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, and the American Veterinary Medical Association for the council’s review.  Mr. Wick advised the council that breed specific legislation is not effective and is actually cost prohibitive.  He went on to advise that there are “better ways and means of handling animal control issues,” and that these methods were actually “mentioned in the breed specific legislation itself.”

Ordinance 505.14 prohibits “pit bulls” from living in the village, and defines a “Pit Bull Terrier” as:

 (b)   … any Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog, or any mixed breed of dog which contains, as an element of its breeding, the breed of Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier, as to be identifiable as particularly of the breed of Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier by a qualified veterinary duly licensed as such by the State.

According to Councilman Ed Kline, who sat on the council when the law passed in the 80’s, the ordinance was the end result of an issue with ONE family who resided there, and has remained on the books ever since.  The police chief confirmed that only one citation related to the ordinance has been issued in the twenty years that he’s worked for the village.

Council discussed a nearby community that is currently considering repealing its breed specific law, and Mr. Wick responded that rather than focus on breeds, that proposal addresses vicious animal legislation by dealing with the behavior of animals, as well as implementing and strictly enforcing responsible owner laws.

Finally, the village solicitor advised the council that the current ordinance is “very difficult for us to enforce,” and that he would have no issue if council chose to update or make changes to the law.

The village council members ultimately decided to send the matter to the Codes and Regulations Committee for further discussion.

I spoke with the village clerk this morning, and she advised that once the committee discussed the matter, they would provide their recommendations to the council as a whole.   She also advised that the council was very interested in getting the opinion of village residents.

Residents of Mount Gilead:  Please reach out to village officials and let them know you support the move to amend the vicious dog ordinance to eliminate any reference to specific breeds of dogs. Encourage village officials to focus on the behavior of individual dogs, as well as penalizing irresponsible dog owners who allow their dogs to become problems in the community.

In addition, considering the council expressed an interest in what other communities are doing with respect to animal control and vicious dog laws, let them know that since the Ohio Legislature passed a law removing all reference to specific breeds of dogs in the state’s vicious dog law in 2012, dozens of cities and towns across the state have followed suit in an effort to enhance the safety and welfare of all who reside in their communities – people and animals alike.

The next city council meeting is August 18, 2014 and anyone that would like to address the council will need to be added to the agenda by August 13.  **Please note, however, it is unknown at this time whether the Committee will have their recommendations on the proposal ready to present to the council, but residents can still take the opportunity at the next meeting to let village officials know they support repealing the ban on pit bull-type dogs.

Wellsville, KS: Decision on repeal of pit bull ordinance “likely” at July 9 council meeting

The city of Wellsville, Kansas has an ordinance that bans “pit bull terriers and Staffordshire terriers” within the city limits, but that could soon change if city officials vote to repeal the decade-old ordinance at the council meeting on Wednesday, July 9, 2014.

The proposal is expected to be on the meeting agenda after the council heard from several Wellsville and Franklin County residents during a public meeting held last Monday.

The issue was initially brought to city officials at the May 28, 2014 city council meeting when resident Lisa Roberts, along with several supporters, presented information to officials about the problems associated with breed specific laws, and asked the council to consider repealing the current ordinance.

In response, a public hearing was held in order to allow residents to voice their opinions either for or against repealing the ordinance.  The hearing was well attended, with many residents asking the council to target problem dog owners rather than specific breeds of dogs.

According to Mayor Bill Lytle, the council could likely make a decision with respect to repeal at tomorrow’s meeting.

WELLSVILLE RESIDENTS:  Please continue to reach out to your city officials and politely and respectfully encourage them to move forward with repealing the ordinance banning pit bull-type dogs.   Let them know that breed specific laws are ineffective, discriminate against and penalize responsible dog owners, and do not enhance the safety or welfare of the residents in communities in which it exists.  Urge your city officials to enact an ordinance that deems dogs dangerous according to their individual actions and behaviors and holds dog owners accountable for the actions of their dogs – regardless of breed.

Finally, please show your support for eliminating the breed specific language in the city’s current ordinance by attending the city council meeting on Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Council meetings start at 6:00 p.m., and are held at City Hall, 411 Main St., Wellsville.

Carroll County, MS to consider pit bull ordinance on July 7, 2014

The Board of Supervisors in Carroll County, Mississippi will consider a proposal to ban or put strict rules on the ownership of pit bulls next week.

Board attorney, Kevin Horan, advised county officials that he believed they could enact an ordinance banning pit bulls that would be upheld by the courts, but a ban would be more difficult than the alternative of regulating the ownership of pit bulls.

The supervisors asked Horan to draft a proposed ordinance they can look at on Monday, July 7, 2014.

The call for a pit bull ordinance comes in the wake of a dog attack in another county. However, the Carroll County sheriff advised Board members that “pit bulls” were being abandoned in Carroll County and becoming an issue after the passage of an ordinance in Grenada County. Sadly, it appears representatives at surrounding shelters support the call due to the number of dogs in the area, and the director of the Hope Animal Sanctuary in Grenada took her support a step further, stating that any ordinance should require pit bull owners have liability insurance, and a stipulation be included that they could not live close to schools, churches or day cares.

Time is of the essence as this issue will be discussed on Monday, July 7.

Accordingly, please take a moment today to send your polite, respectful and informative letters in opposition to breed discriminatory legislation to the Carroll County officials. E-mail contact information is not available for the Board members, but you may fax your letters and suggestions encouraging the county to focus on problem dog owners rather than specific breeds of dogs to the Board of Supervisors, as well as the county attorney.

Talking points on the many problems associated with breed specific laws can be found here.

We also recommend sending county officials the NAIA publication “A Guide to Constructing Successful, Pet Friendly ordinances.” The guide has some excellent points that would help them make a more informed and educated decision that does not involve regulating certain breeds of dogs.

Considering the issue of concern appears to be the number of unattended “pit bulls” in the county, its important to point out that a breed specific ordinance will only result in more dogs being dumped in the county, thus increasing the problem already being experienced. Rather than impose an ordinance that would negatively impact the community, as well as responsible dog owners, the county would be better served by enacting a breed-neutral ordinance that targets irresponsible and reckless dog owners, educating residents on responsible ownership practices, and strictly enforcing the laws already in place.

Carroll County, Mississippi
Board of Supervisors

Post Office Box 60
Carrollton, MS 38917
Phone: (662) 237-9660
Fax: 662-237-9642

Board Attorney
Kevin Horan
FAX: (662) 453-1340