Some news stories coming out of Albany, Georgia today seem to indicate that pit bulls are now considered dangerous dogs there. That is not the case, but the city has taken another step toward enacting a breed specific law. I spoke with the city clerk today for clarification on the status of the pending ordinance.
We alerted you in May 2013 that the Albany city commissioners convened a Citizens Advisory Committee in order to discuss a new dangerous dog ordinance. Commissioner Roger Marietta proposed adding an element to the city’s current ordinance that puts restrictions specifically on owners of pit bull-type dogs. Despite his acknowledgment that the city’s current ordinance categorizes an animal as “dangerous” by its behavior and actions, Marietta cites “news reports involving ‘pit bulls’ from across the country” as his motive to regulate the breed in Albany.
Its worth noting that at the time this was brought up by Marietta (before the creation of the Citizens Advisory Committee), the city attorney was already working on an updated ordinance that would, among other things, require pit bull owners to register their animals, provide specific enclosures for them and require the owner to maintain insurance or a surety bond.
The Citizens Advisory Committee, made up of members selected by the Albany City Commission, met three times before compiling its report for the city commission. The group looked at national statistics, the availability of liability insurance for pit bulls (which they discovered is very difficult to secure), and researched Colorado ordinances.
The Committee also reviewed the breed specific ordinance passed in Terrell County, Georgia in January 2012. In their report, the Committee touts this ordinance as a success when, in reality, Terrell County has been plagued with more problems since passing their “pit bull” ordinance – not less. Four months after being passed, news reports indicated there was little to no compliance with the new ordinance. Instead, the county saw an increase in stray dogs because people who could not comply with the ordinance simply set their dogs loose or surrendered them. In December 2012, almost a year after its enactment, problems continued with shelter overrun and stray dogs. Several news articles published at the time reported that residents of Terrell County felt less safe since the passing of the ordinance.
Regardless, on September 19, 2013, the Albany Citizens Advisory Committee issued a Dangerous Dog Review report, in which all members agreed the problem was “more of an issue of irresponsible owners than just the breed itself.” After a 4 to 2 vote, however, the Committee report ultimately recommended pursuing an ordinance targeting pit bulls.
At a work session today, November 6, 2013, Albany city leaders passed a motion directing the city attorney to draft a “stricter ordinance” targeting pit bulls based on the recommendation of the Citizens Advisory Committee. The Committee told city commissioners that “pit bulls” are statistically proven to be more dangerous. This assessment was based largely on a report compiled by the editor of Animal People, an organization that aggressively advocates the regulation of “pit bulls” based on unreliable “data” retrieved solely from news media stories.
The Committee suggested pit bull owners not be afforded the same hearing that owners of other breeds face after a dog is deemed dangerous based on its actions and pursuant to the current dangerous dog ordinance. Foregoing this step would automatically force pit bull owners to take out liability insurance (which the Committee’s own research found is extremely difficult to obtain) and provide secure enclosures.
Despite a suggestion to table the Committee’s request for three months to conduct studies on the potential impact of the proposal, Mayor pro tem, Tommie Postell, only tabled the proposal for 30 days before it goes to a full council vote.
As a reminder, the Committee’s vote to recommend a breed specific ordinance to the commissioners was not unanimous, and several commissioners voiced concerns today about unintended effects of a breed specific ordinance on the city before the vote.
This issue will be back before the Commission in December.
Please send your polite, respectful and informative opposition to breed specific legislation to the Albany city officials listed below. Please also provide city officials with viable alternatives and suggestions for their consideration. We recommend sending the city officials the NAIA publication, “A Guide to Constructing Successful, Pet Friendly ordinances.” The guide has some excellent points that would help lay the groundwork for an ordinance that will address the problems in the city.
In the alternative, encourage the city officials to aggressively enforce their current dangerous dog ordinance and hold ALL dog owners accountable for the actions and behaviors of their pets, as well as implement and provide educational resources for responsible ownership to residents.
Talking points and alternatives to breed specific legislation can be found here.
City Manager James Taylor
222 Pine Avenue
Albany, GA 31702-0447
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Agendas and Minutes can be found here.
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