Medford, OR: Council meeting offers first opportunity to voice opposition to potential pit bull regulations

The Medford, Oregon city council meets today for two sessions.  The first session begins at noon, and the second session begins at 7:00 p.m.  Both sessions take place in Council Chambers, Room 300, City Hall, 411 West 8th Street, Medford.

While neither of the session agendas indicate that animal control related issues will be discussed, according to the minutes from last week’s council study session, the referral to send to a Police Advisory Committee the proposal to alter the city’s animal control ordinance and possibly regulate pit bulls was to be brought up at the next council meeting, which is today.

Regardless, both meetings set aside time for public comment, and your comments need not be restricted to items on the agenda.  Public comments are limited to 3 minutes per individual, or 5 minutes if representing a group or organization.  In order to address the city council, you need only sign in upon arrival prior to the meeting.

I strongly encourage you to take this opportunity to speak to your city officials regarding the many problems associated with breed specific legislation, including:

The cost of breed specific legislation.  Reinforce the fact that a breed specific law will cost tax-paying citizens of Medford a lot of money to cover the expenses of additional animal control, food and vetting for seized animals, DNA testing, litigation, etc.

Breed identification.  Regardless of the police chief’s claims that his officers’ are fully capable of visually identifying a “pit bull,” the truth is that 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 of a “pit bull” are similar in many breeds.  In fact, veterinarians and animal welfare professionals agree that visual breed identification is not reliable. A JAVMA article published in November 2012 presents its case and rebuts the reliance on breed identification by physical appearance because it can and does lead to animals and owners being wrongly subject to and penalized by a breed specific law.

Breed bans carry with them too much potential for arbitrary or improper enforcement: inaccurate breed identification by officials and difficulty enforcing breed bans against mixed-breed.

Breed identification by animal control/law enforcement officers is so subjective and/or arbitrary, it opens the city to liability and litigation issues in the event of mistaken identification and seizure.

Failure to address irresponsible owners. Restricting breeds of dogs does not address the real issue of irresponsible owners. Only when such owners are held accountable for the actions of their dogs, will adverse dog incidents be reduced.

Because breed specific legislation fails to address irresponsible dog owners, many areas that have enacted breed regulations have actually experienced an increase in dog bite/attack incidents of the dog breeds NOT covered by the breed specific law.

Owners should be held accountable in the judicial system for the actions of their dogs, not the other way around.  After all, laws are created for people, not animals.

Lastly, you may also want to voice your concerns about the matter being referred to a Police Advisory Committee, especially considering the police department is pushing for pit bull regulations.  Stress the importance of a fair and balanced group of individuals be appointed to the committee to ensure all sides and voices are heard.

It goes without saying, but please remember to keep all communications with city officials polite and respectful.

For those who cannot attend the meeting, regular city council meetings are broadcast live on Charter Cablevision, Channel 14, the local government access channel.

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