Albany, GA to vote on pit bull ordinance 1/13/14

City commissioners in Albany, Georgia discussed an ordinance that would regulate the ownership of “pit bulls” at their work session on January 7, 2014.  The meeting began at 8:30 a.m., which is an extremely inconvenient time for Albany residents to attend and take an active role in the creation of laws and policies that impact their lives (and their pocketbooks).  But I digress…

The proposal would require “pit bull” owners to register their dogs with the city; “properly confine” their dogs in an approved enclosure (both inside and outside); and maintain either a policy of liability insurance in the amount of at least $100,000 or a surety bond in the amount of at least $15,000.

While several commissioners felt the enclosure language was not specific enough, they were in agreement with the remaining provisions, and approved the ordinance.

The ordinance will be voted on by the commissioners on Monday, January 13, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. 

This will be the ONLY vote.

Even more distressing, I have confirmed with the city clerk that this is not a public hearing – meaning that while the public can attend the hearing, the issue is not open for discussion, and no public input will be accepted.

I would encourage you to read our previous blog (attached below), which was posted just a few days ago and details the documents city officials reviewed in considering this ordinance, additional background information, and the players involved…including a local humane society who actively participated in drafting the breed specific ordinance.  Then, please reach out to city officials once again and encourage them to remove the breed specific language from the ordinance and, instead, target dangerous/reckless dog owners and dogs that have displayed aggressive behaviors.

This will be your last opportunity to make your voice heard on this issue.  As always, please be polite and respectful in all your communications with city officials.

The contact information for Albany officials can also be found below.

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Albany, GA: Work session to discuss proposed pit bull restrictions on 1/7/14

Posted on January 6, 2014 | Bless the Bullys

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On Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 8:30 a.m., the Albany, Georgia city commission will be discussing a proposed ordinance that puts restrictions specifically on the owners of pit bull-type dogs.

We alerted you in May 2013 that city officials in Albany, Georgia convened a Citizens Advisory Committee  (CAC) in order to discuss a new dangerous dog ordinance. At that time, Commissioner Roger Marietta proposed adding language to the city’s current ordinance that targets “pit bulls.”  Despite Marietta’s acknowledgment that the city’s current ordinance already categorizes an animal as “dangerous” by its behavior and actions, Marietta cited “news reports involving ‘pit bulls’ from across the country” as his motive to regulate the breed in Albany.

It’s worth noting that at the time this issue was brought up by Marietta (and before the creation of the CAC), 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 CAC, made up of members selected by the Albany City Commission, met three times before presenting its findings to 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 CAC contacted and received feedback from the American Kennel Club, as well as the Georgia Canine Coalition, both of which provided information with respect to the failures of breed specific laws.

The advisory committee, as well as the commission as a whole, was also provided with a “study” compiled by Animal People, an organization that aggressively advocates the regulation of “pit bulls” based on unreliable “data” retrieved solely from news media stories.  This “study” was, of course, skewed heavily against pit bulls.  Interestingly, according to the committee meeting minutes, the Albany Humane Society seems to be in agreement with the information provided in the Animal People study.

(As a side note, the Journal of American Veterinary Medicine (JAVMA) just issued a new study casting significant doubt on the use of media reports as a primary (or only) source of data for so-called “scientific studies” such as the one issued by Animal People.  The JAVMA study also found there are usually multiple contributing factors in dog attacks, most of them preventable and NOT related to the breed of the dog involved.)

The CAC also reviewed the breed specific ordinance passed in Terrell County, Georgia in January 2012.  The committee touted Terrell’s ordinance as a success when, in reality, Terrell County has been plagued with more problems since passing their “pit bull” ordinance – not less, and the ordinance has been well documented as a failure.

In September 2013, the CAC 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,” and that the entire dangerous dog ordinance needed to be strengthened in order to address ANY dog that displayed dangerous behavior.  Regardless, after a 4 to 2 vote, the committee’s report ultimately recommended pursuing an ordinance targeting pit bulls.

At a work session on 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 CAC suggested pit bull owners not be afforded the same hearing that owners of other breeds receive 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.

While the CAC did not quantify potential costs, it did acknowledge there would be staff costs in developing the ordinance, as well as with “enforcing legislation related to proper pit bull enclosures and their periodic inspection.”  The committee fails to include in their consideration, however, the costs of housing, feeding, and vetting of seized dogs, as well as shelter overcrowding and its impact on the community, and potential legal action taken by residents.

The CAC report ultimately recommended that city staff, legal counsel, and the Albany Humane Society (an organization that should oppose breed specific regulations) should develop the criteria for regulating specific breeds of dogs.

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.

Despite a suggestion to table the recommendations of the CAC for three months in order 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.

The commission will need to review the newly drafted proposal, and that review will take place at Tuesday’s work session.

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 strengthen and aggressively enforce the 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.

Contact Information for Albany, Georgia city officials:

City Manager James Taylor
222 Pine Avenue
Suite 560
Albany, GA 31702-0447
jtaylor@albany.ga.us
Ph. 1-229-431-3234
Fax 1-229-431-3223

Block copy and paste e-mail for the Mayor and City Commissioners:
dhubbard@albany.ga.us,jhoward@albany.ga.us,ihines@albany.ga.us, cpike@albany.ga.us,rmarietta@albany.ga.us,bob@langstafflaw.com, tpostell@albany.ga.us

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