Windsor, Missouri votes to REPEAL pit bull ordinance!

At their meeting last night, the Windsor, Missouri city council voted 4-3 to REPEAL their existing pit bull ordinance in favor of drafting a new breed-neutral ordinance.

As we reported a few weeks ago, a public hearing was held on June 4 in order to gage the opinion of residents on the city’s pit bull ordinance which is believed to be one of the strictest in the country.  Among the residents who turned out and addressed the council, only one person spoke against repeal, and in doing so, basically recited line by line material gathered from dogsbite.com.  Those who spoke in favor of repeal made sound, educated and fact-based arguments which clearly made an impact on the city officials, in particular, the mayor, who was very engaged in the discussion and asked many questions.  This fact is important considering it was the mayor who cast the tie-breaking vote last night.

City officials will now begin working with the city attorney in drafting the new breed-neutral ordinance.  The town clerk advises the changes will be discussed at upcoming council meetings in order to allow resident input, as well as to keep residents updated as to the status of the changes.

It is very important to note that until the new ordinance is approved, the current ordinance is still in place and, according to the city clerk, “pit bulls are still illegal in Windsor.”

Sending our thanks and appreciation to all those who attended the meetings and made sound, educated presentations to the council and, of course, many thanks to the city officials who voted to end breed discrimination.

Way to go Windsor!!

1st reading of ordinance targeting “pit bulls” and rottweilers passed in Middlebourne, West Virginia

The small town of Middlebourne, West Virginia has been discussing the issue of “vicious dogs” running at large, and at the last city council meeting, an ordinance was proposed that targets “pit bulls” and rottweilers.  The proposal gives the town the power to “police the quartering and control of dogs within the corporate limits. “  The ordinance calls for all dogs to be registered and taxed at the County Assessor’s office, and that all dangerous and/or vicious dogs be assessed as such.  The proposed ordinance automatically declares pit bulls and rottweilers as vicious dog, but affords all other dogs the opportunity to be declared vicious by their past behavior.

The fines proposed in the initial draft were “not less than $5 nor more than $100” for violating any of the provisions of the ordinance, and “not less than $500 nor more than $3000” for a violation resulting in injury.  However, Councilwoman Sue Pelikan stated that she’d done extensive research on this issue, and advised the council of the number of deaths and injuries her “research” claimed was attributed to “pit bulls.”  She proposed changing the fines to higher amounts to deter and hold dog owners accountable.

While City Attorney Gary Rymer felt the draft language with respect to fines was sufficient and that it adequately addressed the responsibility of control by dog owners, he did voice his concern that there is no way to enforce the ordinance. Mayor Delauder also expressed his concerned about how to enforce the ordinance.

Despite this, after discussing the ordinance further, Pelikan suggested significantly raising the fines, and she was adamant in her demand that pit bulls and rottweilers be muzzled when out of their enclosures.  The council ultimately amended the proposed ordinance to include the stiffer fines and the muzzle language.

Despite the concerns raised that the proposal was unenforceable, the first reading of the ordinance was held and passed unanimously.

While we certainly agree that any animal control ordinance must hold ALL owners to a high degree of responsibility, the targeting of certain breeds has been proven time and again to NOT correct the problems that communities experience with irresponsible dog owners. Dangerous dogs are the result of reckless and careless owners, neither of which have anything to do with the breed of dog in question. Dogs (and their owners) should be judged on their individual behaviors and actions – not swept into a group dictated by stereotypes, media hype and misinformation.

According to the 2013 census, Middlebourne is a town of approximately 800 people. Surely in a town of this size, it is much more appropriate, fair and quite frankly, easy, to identify and target the dog owners who are causing problems in the community rather than force good dog owners to adhere to discriminatory measures simply based on the appearance of their dogs. It is the duty of governmental leaders to pass and enforce laws that protect their citizens, and breed specific laws do not achieve this because they only address owners of certain (or perceived) breeds of dogs, thus allowing the true problem dog owners (who don’t happen to have a dog that meets the appearance language of the ordinance), to get a free pass and continue with their irresponsible behavior and endanger the community.

Councilwoman Pelikan told her fellow council members that she wants the town to have an ordinance that requires dog owners to take responsibility and control there dogs. If that is truly her intent, removing the breed specific language from the proposed ordinance will help achieve that without punishing good dog owners or infringing on their property rights because it will allow  whoever is ultimately tasked with enforcing the law to focus on the root of the problem – the dogs actually endangering the community by their behavior and actions, and their irresponsible owners allowing it to happen.

Please reach out to the Middlebourne town officials and encourage them to hold irresponsible and reckless dog owners accountable for the actions of their dogs regardless of the breed they own. Provide them with information on the failures of breed specific legislation and the number of cities across the country that have repealed their discriminatory policies in favor of breed-neutral laws. Ask them to remove the breed specific language in the current proposal and replace it with breed-neutral language that affords EVERY dog the opportunity to be judged on his or her individual behavior, as well as targeting the owners who allow their dogs, regardless of breed, to cause problems in the community.

As noted above, Middlebourne is a very small town and has virtually no online presence. You can fax (or snail mail) your polite and respectful letters to city hall with a request to please forward to the mayor and each council member before the next council meeting.

Town of Middlebourne
100 Main Street
Middlebourne, WV 26149
Phone: 758-4771
FAX: 758-2182

Windsor, Missouri: Public Hearing to discuss pit bull ordinance on June 4

The City of Windsor, Missouri is holding a public hearing on Thursday, June 4th, at 7:30 pm, to discuss “possible changes” related to the city’s ordinance addressing the ownership of “pit bulls.”  Currently, §210.110 of the Windsor city code bans the ownership of pit bulls and pit bull crosses.  Although I have been unable to find a copy of the actual ordinance online, the individual seeking our assistance and support advises it is one of the strictest bans in the country.

With that in mind, please reach out to the Windsor city officials and encourage them to repeal the city’s current discriminatory ordinance and replace it with a law that not only deems dogs dangerous based on their individual behavior and actions rather than by their breed or appearance, but also respects the property rights of dog owners who live within the city.

Please send your polite and respectful letters encouraging this positive change to the Windsor officials at the e-mail address listed below. In order to ensure the appropriate officials receive your correspondence, please address your letters to the city clerk, Kim Henderson, with a polite request asking her to forward to each city council member for his or her review.

Kim Henderson, City Clerk/Manager
windsor@iland.net

Windsor City Hall
110 W. Benton
Windsor, MO 65360
(660)-647-3512

In addition, if you are in the area, please make every effort to attend the public hearing this Thursday (June 4) at 7:30 p.m. in the City Hall Annex in a show of support for potential positive change in the city of Windsor, Missouri.

Federal law suit challenges constitutionality of breed specific ordinance in the Village of Fall River, Wisconsin

The owner of two dogs in Wisconsin has filed a federal lawsuit against the Village of Fall River for its law related to the ownership of “pit bulls and other dangerous animals.”

Section 7-1-9 of the Village of Fall River Code states:

 (a) It shall be unlawful to keep, harbor, own or in any way possess within the corporate limits of the Village of Fall River…

(3) Any pit bull dog provided that pit bull dogs registered with the Village on the day this Section becomes effective may be kept within the Village subject to the standards and requirements set forth in Subsection (b) of this Section.

The requirements under the code include the dog wearing a leash and muzzle when not confined; outdoor and indoor confinement requirements; signage, registration and $50,000 liability insurance policy.

The Code goes on to define a “pit bull” as:

  1. The 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 dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, or a combination of any of these breeds.

Madelyn Wissell Buchda has lived in Fall River with her two dogs, Diesel and Thor, since 2011. Buchda, obtained licenses for her mixed-breed dogs on December 10, 2013, and ironically, received citations for violating the village code just 3 days later.

Officials verbally ordered the two dogs, which are rescues and whose breeds are unknown to Buchda, be removed from the village limits. Out of fear for the safety and welfare of her dogs, Buchda began boarding them outside the village’s jurisdiction, and she continues to board the dogs at her expense “under threat of the village impounding and euthanizing them” if they return to the village.

The complaint filed in federal court demands a preliminary injunction and a finding that that the law in question is unconstitutional.  The complaint states that Thor and Diesel “are regarded by Plaintiff as both sentient personalities and as immediate family members. ”  The complaint goes on to state, “Thor and Diesel are companion animals, have never bitten any person or animal, have no animal control history or complaints, [and] are not aggressive.”

We certainly wish Ms. Buchda the best of luck in the pursuit of her lawsuit, and we are extremely hopeful the end result will be one less town with a breed specific ordinance.

If you happen to be a resident of the Village of Fall River, please reach out to your town officials and ask them to seriously consider repealing the current biased code that (unconstitutionally) interferes with the rights of property owners.  After all,  YOUR tax dollars will be funding the village’s defense of this discriminatory law.

Cincinnati, OH: Committee meeting on “pit bull” proposal on March 2, 2015

City officials in Cincinnati, Ohio are proposing that all pit bull owners pay  a registration fee and also require their dogs to wear a “special collar.”

I have confirmed with the council clerk that this proposal is scheduled to be heard before the Law and Public Safety Committee this MONDAY (March 2) at 10:00 a.m.  Depending on the results of that committee meeting, the proposal could actually go to a council vote on WEDNESDAY.

Cincinnati residents, time is of the essence. Please reach out to the members of the Law & Public Safety Committee TODAY and urge them to decline to entertain this proposal.

Committee meetings are open to the public and held in Council Chambers, Room 300, City Hall, 801 Plum St., in Cincinnati.  If you would like to address the committee members, please arrive before 10:00 a.m. and request a speaker card from Courtney, the council clerk.  Your presentation will be limited to 2 or 3 minutes (at the discretion of the committee chair).

Cincy residents, I know you’re all too familiar with the fight against breed discrimination, but as always, please be polite and respectful in all your communications with city officials.

Law and Public Safety Committee Members

Christopher Smitherman, Chair
christopher.smitherman@cincinnati-oh.gov

Kevin Flynn, Vice Chair
kevin.flynn@cincinnati-oh.gov

Yvette Simpson
yvette.simpson@cincinnati-oh.gov

Wendell Young
wendell.young@cincinnati-oh.gov

Charles Winburn
charlie.winburn@cincinnati-oh.gov

Help shelter “bullys” in Grapevine, TX get the chance of adoption they deserve!

An effort is underway by residents of Grapevine, Texas to change the city’s animal shelter policy which currently does not allow pit bulls or pit bull mixes to be adopted, placed on the adoption floor or even listed on their website. While the staff works with partnering agencies to find alternative placement for any animal that cannot be on the adoption floor, in reality, these dogs have little to no exposure, and are very often euthanized.

According to shelter staff, however, this policy is currently under review by the City of Grapevine.

While I do not see the issue on any upcoming agendas, please reach out to city officials and encourage them to repeal their policy which prohibits the adoption of “pit bull-type” dogs and ask them to implement in its place a policy that would afford all dogs the opportunity of adoption based on their individual temperaments and personalities. This type of policy would give ALL dogs, particularly mixed breeds who’ve been labeled as “pit bulls” by shelter staff, a better chance at adoption.

As experts point out,  breed labels issued at shelters are often inaccurate because staff members are simply guessing at a dog’s breed based on the way he or she looks, and these extremely subjective breed assessments (which can, and often do, vary from person to person), literally either mean the chance for a new life or a guaranteed death sentence to these dogs – regardless of their age, their temperament or their disposition – in other words, their true “adoptability” isn’t even a consideration.

In November 2012, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) published an article entitled Rethinking Dog Breed Identification in Veterinary Practices.  The article questions visual dog breed identification given the vast percentage of mixed-breed dogs in the United States, and discusses studies that demonstrate that physical appearance of a dog is not a good indicator of breed. The authors assert that incorrect identification of a dog’s breed based on visual inspection can lead to misidentification and negative consequences, and they recommended a shift toward a non-breed-based system given the ramifications that misidentification could have both from a legal, as well as quality-of-life, perspective.

More importantly, a dog’s breed is in no way a justification for whether it is worthy of adoption. We know dogs are individuals and every dog should be given the opportunity to show his or her personality without a discriminatory and negative stereotype hanging over their head, inhibiting their chance for adoption into a loving home…which is what each and every shelter dog deserves…and what every shelter should be ultimately striving for.

Please send a polite and respectful letter to the Grapevine city officials listed below and encourage them to put an end to the shelter’s policy that discriminates against dogs deemed to be certain breeds and, instead, to allow each and every dog that enters their facility a fair shot and opportunity at adoption into a loving family.  As always, please keep in mind that the manner in which you communicate with officials makes a very big difference, and your words – both positive and negative – truly matter.  This is an important issue, and if you can’t make your point in a civil manner, for the sake of the dogs, leave it to those who can.

Mayor and city council:
wtate@grapevinetexas.gov,swilbanks@grapevinetexas.gov,
sharrons@grapevinetexas.gov,mlease@grapevinetexas.gov,
dfreed@grapevinetexas.gov,ccoy@grapevinetexas.gov,
dodell@grapevinetexas.gov

City Manager Bruno Rumbelow:
sporter@grapevinetexas.gov

Agendas and council meeting minutes can be found here:
http://grapevinetexas.gov/index.aspx?nid=847

Pit bull ordinance being drafted in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

A concerned citizen is reaching out for help in opposing an ordinance proposed by the mayor of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas which targets “pit bulls.”  The city council has been discussing a vicious dog ordinance for several months, and at their November council meeting, Mayor Don House described “pit bulls” as a “very real safety issue to the public.”

Despite a debate on how the city would handle breed identification and mixed-breed dogs, Alderman Dixon made a motion to have the city attorney draft an ordinance that would ban pit bulls.  Once the council receives the draft ordinance, they will hold three public meetings before taking a vote.

It is not known when this issue will be before the council next, but a city official recently advised it would likely be taken up after the first of the year.

Accordingly, please send your polite, respectful and informative letters in opposition to breed discriminatory legislation to the Walnut Ridge city officials listed below, and encourage them to focus on problem dog owners rather than specific breeds of dogs.  It is also recommend that you forward for their consideration the NAIA publication “A Guide to Constructing Successful, Pet Friendly ordinances.”  The guide has some excellent points that would help the city officials make a more informed and educated decision that does not involve regulating certain breeds of dogs.

You may also want to share a copy of the American Bar Association House of Delegates Resolution 100, passed on August 6, 2012, which calls for laws regarding dangerous dogs to be “breed neutral.”  The resolution states:

The American Bar Association urges all state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and government agencies to adopt breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws that ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership, and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs, and to repeal any breed discriminatory or breed specific legislation.

Considering the aldermen have already broached the subject of problematic breed identification, please point out the difficulties of identifying so-called “pit bulls,” including the fact that “pit bull” is not a breed of dog but, rather, it is a catch-all term for a broad grouping of dogs, and the number of specific breeds that fall into that grouping varies widely depending on the individual making the determination.  Most animal control and/or law enforcement officers are not able to identify specific breeds of dogs with any degree of accuracy because the commonly stated physical characteristics in many breeds are extremely similar.

In addition, emphasize that breed bans carry with them too much potential for arbitrary or improper enforcement.  Because breed identification by animal control officers is subjective (or arbitrary), it opens the city to liability and litigation issues at tax payer expense in the event of mistaken identification.  Despite any assertions to the contrary, the burden of breed identification falls on the city — NOT dog owners — and will require DNA testing at the city’s expense.

Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments with respect to why breed specific legislation fails is that it neglects to address the issue of irresponsible dog ownership – the true cause of problem dogs in any community.  Breed specific laws place the blame squarely on the dogs themselves and removes the responsibility from the dog owner.  In effect, breed specific laws let reckless and negligent dog owners off the hook.  Moreover, because regulating breeds of dogs does not address the very real issue of irresponsible owners, many areas that have enacted breed regulations have actually experienced an increase in dog bite/attack incidents of dog breeds NOT covered by the breed specific law – the exact opposite desired result of any animal control ordinance.  Only when you see more owners understand their responsibilities and become committed to providing the proper training, care, socialization and supervision for their dogs, will dog bite incidents be reduced.

Last, but certainly not least, breed specific laws infringe on dog owners’ property rights.  Despite the negative connotation some may associate with labeling dogs as “property,” the bottom line is, in the eyes of the law, that’s exactly what they are.  That being said, it is universally understood that the legal description attached to dogs has absolutely no bearing on the affection and appreciation dog owners have for their dogs, nor does it have any impact on or change the fact that dogs are meaningful and beloved members of their families. Moreover, designating dogs as “property” is extremely important to the fight against breed specific laws because “property owners” must be afforded due process.  In short, a government’s authority is limited by the Constitution, which is where dogs’ legal classification as “property” comes into play.  According to the Constitution, the government cannot deprive you of your property without giving you due process – that is, notice and a chance to have a hearing. By automatically declaring dogs dangerous because of their perceived breed or appearance, dog owners are deprived of due process.

Everyone agrees that ensuring community safety is of the utmost importance. Also important, however, are dog owners’ rights not to have their dog declared “dangerous” without notice, a hearing, or an appeal process.

Dog ownership is a responsibility, and individual dog owners — not entire communities — need to be held accountable when they fail to live up to those responsibilities and the duty owned to their dogs, as well as their communities. Community safety is achieved by strictly enforcing animal control laws that are already in place, not passing laws that reckless and negligent dog owners have already proven to hold with little to no regard.

The Walnut Ridge city council meets on the second Tuesday of each month. Agendas are not available online, but as long as this issue is on the table, if you’re in the area, please make a point of attending upcoming meetings in a show of unified opposition to breed specific laws.

Please note that there have been reports of e-mails bouncing for the city council members, and the mayor’s e-mail is not made available, so you may want to address your correspondence to the city’s administrative assistant, Sue Hilburn, sent via fax or e-mail, with a polite request to distribute to each alderman and the mayor.

Administrative Assistant
Sue Hilburn
shilburn@cityofwalnutridge.com

City Hall
300 W. Main Street
Walnut Ridge, AR 72476
Phone: 870-886-6638
Fax: 870-886-6147

Walnut Ridge City Council:
wjones@cityofwalnutridge.com, bdixon@cityofwalnutridge.com, rcombs@cityofwalnutridge.com, jtaylor@cityofwalnutridge.com,
dwinfrey@cityofwalnutridge.com,  apinkston@cityofwalnutridge.com,
bwallin@cityofwalnutridge.com, elawson@cityofwalnutridge.com

Finally, on a personal note, I want to thank everyone for your messages and concern in response to my absence over the last few months. As you all know, my dogs mean the world to me, and while its hard to believe, Harlan, my perpetual puppy, the dog I thought would never grow out of adolescence, is closing in on 13, and has begun to act, and sadly, feel his age.  After Tiffin passed (at the age of 13), my heart was heavy with guilt over the time I spent with all the dogs here and, frankly, the enormous amount of time I spent with my butt planted in front of the computer. While I still have many dogs to share my time with, the one thing I can do is reduce the time I spend on the computer and devote that to my dogs. This doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned the fight against breed discrimination, and please know that I am always here for anyone that needs help. Of course, we can never know when our time here will come to pass, but I can know that I made every effort to spend as much time and give as much attention to Harlan as I possibly could.

To that end, I know that all of you have dogs that hold a very special place in your heart, and the responsible dog owners in Walnut Ridge are no exception.  Lets do our part to ensure that that they, too, have the opportunity to enjoy full and long lives with their beloved dogs, as well.

Please make your voice heard, and oppose this ordinance.