Victoria (AU) set to reverse ban on registering “dangerous breeds”

The government of Victoria (Australia) is set to reverse its ban on registering “dangerous breeds” which include: pit bull terriers, Japanese tosas, dogo Argentinos, presa canarios and fila Brasileiros.

Under current law, dogs that meet the physical characteristics of the above breeds that weren’t registered with the government before 2011 are automatically subject to seizure and potential execution.  Their owners are, however, entitled to hearings before a Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).   Its no secret that the very publicized hearings held before VCAT have been unsuccessful, in great part because positive breed identification was the burden of the governing body.

According to the Agriculture Minister, “it was too difficult to identify specific breeds, with ­owners having taken protracted legal actions to overturn [VCAT] rulings.”  After these protracted legal actions, some of which literally cost tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars, the VCAT rulings were overturned because identification was deemed as subjective and mere speculation.

In fact, a case that involved a dog named Kerser went to the Supreme Court after a VCAT found Kerser to be a “pit bull.”  An official with the Monosh government made this determination via visual identification based on Kerser’s physical characteristics meeting the guidelines on an overly broad and vague checklist.  A judgment was entered by the Supreme Court in December 2013.  The Court overturned the VCAT ruling, and stated with respect to the breed determination procedure:

 In truth, [her] conclusion – whether it be described as being based on her own observation or an impression – could be no more than speculation. The tribunal’s ability to inform itself in any way it sees fit does not extend to engaging in guesswork.

The Victorian Agriculture Minister has admitted that the law regarding restricted breeds is NOT working and, further, it is ineffective and extremely costly.  Moreover, after the judgment in Kerser’s case was issued, the city of Monosh released a statement on their website stating that the State government’s laws regarding banned breeds were “unworkable,” and declaring that residents should not have to keep paying for their “lazy and half-baked law making.”

This new action by the Victorian government will allow owners of pit bulls and other banned breeds to register their dogs, but its important to note that those dogs will be subject to restrictions including, mandatory spay/neuter, microchip, and “escape-proof” housing.  They must also be muzzled and kept on a leash when off their properties, and owners must display a special warning sign in front of homes.

Some news outlets are reporting that future government talks could focus on “deed not breed,” and actually put laws in place that declare dogs as “dangerous” based on their actions and behavior.  For now, this is a step in the right direction, and I have no doubt that breed advocates in Australia will continue to push forward until BSL is just an ugly chapter in their history books.

Sources:  (

The Australian:  (

MICHIGAN SB 239 would PROHIBIT breed specific ordinances!

In 2015, a bill was presented in the Michigan Senate that would prohibit local governments from enacting breed specific legislation.  That bill, SB 239, passed in the state Senate, and it is currently pending before the House of Representatives Local Government Committee.

Senator David Robertson sponsored SB 239 because he believes that no dog should be banned from a community based on its appearance.  In his remarks to the House Committee on Wednesday, Senator Robertson stated:

“[Breed specific laws] do not advance public safety, and [they] miss the mark. Outright banning of a domesticated breed is wrong because it’s not central to the point that the owner is squarely responsible for the behavior of their dog.”

Not only do breed specific laws take the onus off problem dog owners, they act as a cover for the true “problem dogs” in the community, all the while giving residents a false sense of security.  Moreover, it is extremely difficult to accurately identify a dog’s breed by its appearance.  While this law would protect all dogs, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that most breed specific ordinances target “pit bulls,” which is not a breed of dog.  Many purebred dogs (and lets not forget dogs of mixed breeding) can and do resemble the physical characteristics of breeds that commonly end up on banned breed lists.  A dog’s appearance is not an indicator of the danger it presents, nor should it be a death sentence.

Breed specific laws infringe the property rights of responsible dog owners, and responsible owners should not be barred from owning any type or breed of dog based solely on the appearance of a dog.  The most effective ordinances are generic, breed-neutral laws that focus on the behavior and actions of individual dogs, as well as irresponsible, careless and reckless dog owners.

Finally, breed specific ordinances are costly to enforce, and they often spark lawsuits that must be defended by the municipalities that enact them, and ALL the costs associated with the same come directly from the tax payers.

Michiganders, do you want your hard earned tax dollars used to enforce laws that not only target innocent family pets and law abiding citizens, but also infringe on the rights of responsible pet owners for no reason other than their dog meets certain physical characteristics found on a very broad and vague checklist?

The Committee did not take a vote on SB 239 on Wednesday, but a vote is expected sometime this fall.

MICHIGAN RESIDENTS:  Please reach out to the members of the Local Government Committee, and politely and respectfully encourage them to pass SB 239 to enhance the safety and the lives of both people and animals in Michigan.  Contact information for the Committee members can be found at the link below, or you can send your correspondence to the Committee Clerk, Mary Lou Terrien (, with a polite request to please distribute to each Committee member.

In addition, please also reach out to your respective House and Senate members.  If you do not know who your elected officials are, you can find out here:

Find your Senator:

Find your House Representative

House Local Government Committee:

Lee Chatfield, Committee Chair

Amanda Price

Kurt Heise

David Maturen

Jim Runestad

Jason Sheppard

Lana Theis

Jeremy Moss

Charles Brunner

David Rutledge

Sheldon Neeley  

As always, it is so very important to be polite and respectful in all your communications with officials.  Our interactions DO make an impression, and our actions and words do effect the way our message is received.

Newark, Ohio set to REPEAL pit bull ordinance

Good news out of Newark, Ohio!

At their April 4, 2016 meeting, the Newark, Ohio city council voted to adopt Ordinance 16-07A – an ordinance that eliminates the breed specific language from the city code.  In effect, the ordinance removes the special designation of “vicious dog” to pit bull-type dogs and aligns the city code with state law.

After lengthy discussion and input from several citizens at the April 4 meeting that was jam packed with residents, a motion was made to table the ordinance until the next committee meeting. That motion failed in a 6-5 vote, and the discussion continued on.

A vote was then taken to adopt the ordinance, which resulted in a 5-5 tie.  Those who voted against ending breed discrimination in Newark were Councilmembers Bubb, Cost, Floyd, Hall and Rolletta.

Ultimately, the tie-breaker came down to Council President Don Ellington who, in weighing all the arguments, believed passage of the ordinance would both enhance the safety of the citizens of Newark and encourage dog owners to be more responsible, cast the final vote to pass Ordinance 16-07A.

Mr. Ellington announced that the ordinance would be enacted within 30 days.

I wanted to share with you a portion of the argument of Councilman Jeff Rath, one of the members who introduced the ordinance.  Mr. Rath obviously understands his role as a public servant and representative of the people who put him in office:

“As far as why we have introduced this legislation, for me, I have kind of led this charge for a while….

…look around.  There are a lot of people in this chamber, both for and against this, but there have been a lot of people who have been pushing for this for a very long time, and those people have done everything that it has taken to have their voice heard. I feel, personally, as an elected official, that it is our job to allow their voice to be heard. So whether I was for or against this, when there are this many people that are coming out on an issue and want to have their voice heard, then I think that it is their right to have it heard…. If I have to introduce legislation to represent them that nobody else will, then I will do that. I commend all of you for getting up and speaking and for following this through for as long as you have.

To me, this is about making Newark safer. This is going to eliminate a significant administrative responsibility of our animal control officer. Without him having to do [those administrative duties], it is going to free up a lot of his time to actually pursue vicious animals…to actually pursue other animal issues that we have in our city.

There is also the issue of what is a pit bull? There are cases going through our courts right now through the Licking County court system that could possibly eliminate breed specific legislation state wide. Pit bull is such an arbitrary term. What is a pit bull? Is it this kind of terrier or that kind of terrier? Its not a specific breed, and its very difficult to identify. [This ordinance] eliminates discrimination. There are a lot of good dog owners that are being discriminated against simply because of the type of dog that they have. They are forced to jump through a lot of hoops, and to me, that is just over stepping government, and its just not right. [This ordinance] increases owner accountability.”

The council minutes can be found on the City of Newark’s website, and you can read all the arguments both for and against the ordinance there.

I had a wonderful conversation with the council clerk this afternoon who confirmed that the amendment removes any and all reference to “pit bulls” and deems all dogs as vicious based on their actions and behaviors.  She also confirmed that Mayor Hall signed the ordinance the night of the council meeting, April 4, which means it goes into effect TOMORROW, May 4, 2016. 

Congratulations Newark!  Years of hard work paid off…you did it! This is a GREAT win for your community and for common sense dog laws that focus on behavior instead of breed.

Etowah, TN: Registration ordinance opportunity to discuss multitude of problems with visual breed identification

The town of Etowah, Tennessee passed a pit bull ordinance in October 2012.  I was one of a limited number of people permitted to be present in the hearing room during the commissioner’s meeting, and I can tell you without a hint of doubt, passage of the ordinance was a done deal long before the meeting took place that night.  You can find my summary of the  2012 commissioner’s meeting here.  After a very well organized and extremely positive campaign led by Etowah resident, Sherri Cooper, to prevent the ordinance from passing, pit bull owners were treated with what can only be labeled as disdain.

With regard to the most recent incident which generated this headline by WTVC news, “Dog bite forces city of Etowah to begin stricter pit bull ban enforcement,” I spoke with an Etowah Public Works official today for clarification on what exactly is going on.  I was advised that as a result of the incident on March 9, 2016, ALL dogs must be registered with the city.  This is actually a policy that’s been in place for years, but it hasn’t been enforced.  In order to comply with the law, all dog owners are required to bring their registration paperwork to the city.  If the breed of the dog is left blank, or the dog is labeled a “mixed breed,” owners will have to provide photographs of their dog.  The official then went on to explain that visual identification is not left up to a single employee, and that multiple employees or city officials opine on what they believe the breed of the dog in question is.

I took the opportunity to stress the inaccuracies and the problems associated with breed identification via a dog’s appearance alone – especially when dealing with mixed breed dogs and those that are labeled “pit bulls,” and, it can’t be stressed enough, when performed by individuals with no particular experience or expertise in breed identification or, for that matter, dogs in general.  In fact, many veterinarians and animal control officers – those who work with a variety of dogs day in and day out – agree that visual breed identification is not an accurate method to determine a dog’s breed.  The city official agreed, and for the record, is not a fan of the pit bull ordinance or this procedure.

With respect to the “pit bull” ordinance specifically, I was advised that it is the city’s position that dog owners have the responsibility to prove their dog is or is not a pit bull.  This is absolutely incorrect.  It is the city’s obligation to prove the dog is or is not a member of a regulated breed and, as such, the city should foot the bill for DNA testing.  However, the city acknowledged in 2012 that they did not have the funds to enforce the law, nor did they have all the procedures in place to implement the law.  Rather, the city manager advised that  all the details would eventually just fall into place.

So…how’s that working out?

You cannot pass ANY law, animal control or otherwise, knowing (1) the funding or means to enforce the law are not available and (2) procedures and/or plans on the law’s implementation have not been considered or worked out.  This law was passed simply so city commissioners could say that they did “something” to fix a “problem” that never existed in the first place.

If you plan on going to the commissioner’s meeting on March 28, it’s important to understand the issue on the table – the rules currently being discussed apply to all dogs. I would  recommend bringing to the commission’s attention your suggestions on how to promote responsible dog ownership in Etowah and how to hold dog owners accountable for the actions of their dogs without trampling on the property rights of any given group of people (i.e., pit bull owners or dog owners in general).  I would also suggest providing the commissioners with copies of studies** on the inaccuracies and the many problems associated with visual breed identification.  An inaccurate visual breed identification could have a devastating impact on a responsible family whose dog has never caused a problem or had any issues.  It could result in a good dog ending up in a shelter or worse simply because its owners couldn’t afford to comply with a discriminatory law that shouldn’t apply to them in the first place.

Despite the dramatic headline, the pit bull ordinance is not being strengthened.  Its been in place since October 2012.  That being said, by all means, residents are strongly encouraged to urge the city commission to take up the issue of repealing the pit bull ordinance and keep asking until the issue is put on the agenda.  City officials change.  As I always say, your voice matters, and your vote can bring in a new commissioner that could upset the apple cart on the vote tally of those in favor of the existing breed specific law.  In fact, two new commissioners were elected in 2014 – David James and Jason Cardin.  Have you asked them what their position on the pit bull ordinance is?

Moreover (and very importantly), the terms for Jim Bull and Jim Swaye – both of whom voted for the pit bull ordinance – are up in August 2016.  VOTE THEM OUT!   If there are no viable candidates, consider running yourself.  As the saying goes, be the change you want to see in the world (or at least in your little part of the world).  Etowah deserves city commissioners who will be fair and open-minded, not enter into discussions with their minds already made up on an issue, and not judge fellow residents based on stereotypes.

As we all know, a dog’s appearance is an inappropriate and flawed manner in which to ascertain the threat a dog poses to the community. A more reasonable and accurate method to identify a dangerous dog is by its behavior, not its breed. The pit bull ordinance in Etowah penalizes all pit bull owners while allowing owners of dogs who do pose a real and actual threat to the community to be let off the hook.  Residents of Etowah should continue to convey this message grounded in concern not just for their dogs, but for the welfare and safety of all the members of their community to their city officials.

Bottom line, don’t give up.  There are a lot of dedicated and determined dog owners in Etowah – I’ve met them, I’ve worked with them.   Positive change is possible, and you can make it happen! It may not happen overnight or even right away, but it can happen.

**Studies on the inaccuracies of visual breed identification:

Inconsistent Identification of Pit Bull-Type Dogs by Shelter Staff

Is that Dog a Pit Bull?  A Cross-Country Comparison of Perceptions of Shelter Workers Regarding Breed Identification

Incorrect Breed Identification Costs Dogs Their Lives

Inaccuracy of Breed Labels Assigned to Dogs of Unknown Origin

Comparison of Visual and DNA Breed Identification of Dogs and Inter-Observer Reliability

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  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