At this week’s city council meeting in Madison, Wisconsin, an ordinance was proposed that would require pit bulls the age of five months and older to be spayed or neutered. Alderman John Strasser says the overpopulation of pit bulls is putting stress on the Dane County Humane Society and the city’s animal services officers.
The ordinance must be reviewed by the Dane County Board of Health and the Public Safety Review Commission before being brought up for a vote. Once these committees assess the ordinance, it will be passed back to City Council with recommendations, at which point the council will allow public input and debate.
Enforcement of the new restrictions would be complaint-based. If a disturbance involving a “pit bull” is reported, proof of the dog’s alteration, as well as proof of registration, would be required.
We obviously take no issue with imposing regulations on dog owners who have allowed their dogs to cause problems, but those regulations should apply to owners of any dog, not just dogs that appear to be a certain breed.
City officials insist the proposal is not discriminatory, and there is “no prejudice” in the introduction of the restrictions on “pit bulls.” Rather, they claim the proposal is an opportunity to help avoid further negligence of the dogs in poor care.
If that’s the case, why not aggressively target dog owners who are negligent and irresponsible, rather than pass a sweeping ordinance that stigmatizes all dogs of a certain breed and their owners?
Regardless of whether the city officials’ intent is without prejudice, this measure is discriminatory and does further the stigma of “problem breed” on a grouping of dogs with certain physical characteristics.
Dogs are individuals and should be judged on their individual temperament and behaviors, and responsible owners of well behaved dogs should not be subject to discriminatory regulations based solely on their dog’s appearance.
Animal control related issues are human created problems. Educating ALL dog owners on responsible ownership practices, and offering incentives like low cost spay/neuter options to dog owners are better, more effective solutions than an ordinance that simply sounds like its making a positive difference, but in reality, is impossible to enforce.
While I personally support spaying/neutering of pets, responsible owners, regardless of their breed of choice, should have the ability to make that choice on their own. The bottom line is, breed specific legislation comes in varying forms, and we can’t pick and choose to fight it when it happens to promote something we would otherwise support (such as spaying and neutering). More importantly, mandatory spay/neuter laws are unenforceable and succeed only in branding a specific breed as “bad” or “problematic.”
Positive change comes with solutions that target the causes of problems, and if the Madison city officials want to help the people and animals in their community, they can start by targeting the pet owners who are negligent, careless and irresponsible, and offer education and low cost spay neuter programs for ALL dogs owners in the community.
The city council will likely discuss the proposal during its March 18 meeting. Please send your polite and respectful opposition to any ordinance that singles out specific breeds of dogs to the Madison city officials listed below. Encourage them to develop educational programs and offer incentives to increase responsible pet ownership practices in Madison.
You can e-mail the entire council with an online form found here:
City of Madison, Wisconsin Board of Aldermen:
City council meeting minutes and agendas can be found here: