Danville, KY and Boyle County, KY considering breed specific changes to animal control ordinances

At their respective meetings this week, city commissioners in Danville, Kentucky and the Boyle County, Kentucky magistrates discussed at length possible changes to  their animal control ordinances.

Boyle County Attorney Richard Campbell attended the meetings, and he was asked for an update on what might be done to strengthen the dog ordinances for both the city and the county.  Campbell advised he has been researching ordinances enacted by other communities, including Bracken County’s ordinance banning pit bulls. Campbell noted that Bracken’s law has been upheld by the state Court of Appeals.

This suggestion, however, did not sit well with all the officials, and some voiced concerns about prohibiting specific breeds of dogs.  Magistrate Jack Hendricks stated that any dog can be made vicious, and that he wasn’t sure the officials should pursue a breed ban.

In addition, Magistrate Patty Burke added, “…[i]t’s not the dogs, it’s the people who raise them. The problems start with irresponsible dog owners.”

It was ultimately agreed that city and county officials would share information and work together to come up with revised dog ordinances that are more consistent and effective.

The discussions came about after an incident in June wherein a resident’s “pack of presa canarios” escaped from their kennel and mauled a resident in Lincoln County. The dogs were in another county because they had previously been seized from their owner, Christopher Pope, after he was charged with animal cruelty.  The dogs were subsequently returned to Pope as part of a plea deal, and he then moved the dogs to another location.  Pope now rightly faces several criminal charges.

Its important to point out that the Danville city code as related to animal control is already strong, and the June incident was an anomaly (as noted by officials during the meetings), and responsible, law abiding dog owners should not be punished and subjected to discriminatory laws based on the failures of one dog owner to be responsible for his dogs.

Moreover, not only does the current city code set forth specific language for the care and control of animals in general, it goes a step further and addresses responsible dog ownership specifically.  Section 3-32 of the Danville city code states as follows:

Duty of all dog owners to be responsible owners.
Every owner of a dog shall have the duty to exercise reasonable care and shall take all necessary steps and precautions to protect other people, property, and animals from injuries or damage which might result from the owner’s dog’s behavior, regardless of whether such behavior is motivated by mischievousness, playfulness, or ferocity.  If the owner of any dog is a minor, the custodian, parent or guardian legally responsible for such minor shall also be responsible to ensure that all provisions of this article are followed.

Animal control ordinances, as with any law, are designed to deter certain behaviors and actions, and when the law is broken, making sure the individual who breaks the law is swiftly punished acts as a further deterrent.  Mr. Pope broke the law, and Mr. Pope is facing serious consequences for his irresponsibility.  The notion that an entire community of dog owners should suffer the consequences of Mr. Pope’s actions for no other reason than they own dogs that have similar physical characteristics is simply irrational and unreasonable.

Please encourage city and county officials to decline to entertain any ordinance or motion that would ban or restrict specific breeds of dogs.  Encourage them, instead, to pursue stricter enforcement of the current law in Danville, and the adoption of a law in Boyle County similar to that which is already in place in Danville.  Remind officials that breed bans are:

(1) ineffective, costly to all taxpayers in the community, and difficult to enforce;
(2) punish and create financial hardship on responsible, law abiding citizens; and
(3) interfere with property rights of dog owners.

Please send your polite and respectful letters in opposition to breed specific legislation to both the Boyle County and Danville city officials listed below.  Danville offers a contact form on their website, but other than Mayor Perros, direct e-mail information for the individual city commissioners is not made available. 


Harold McKinney

Donnie Coffman

Dickie Mayes

Phillip R. Sammons

Jack Hendricks

Patty Burke

John Caywood

City of Danville, Kentucky

P.O. Box 670
Danville, KY 40423
FAX:  (859) 238-1236

Contact form

Mayor Mike Perros

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 City Hall
110 W. Benton
Windsor, MO 65360

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

Kevin Flynn, Vice Chair

Yvette Simpson

Wendell Young

Charles Winburn

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:

City Manager Bruno Rumbelow:

Agendas and council meeting minutes can be found here: