I’ve been a little behind in getting some updates out over the past few weeks. The warm weather adds some extra chores to my workload, and my crunch for time can be best summed up in four words… BIG yard, push mower.
So without further delay, here’s the rundown of updates from the last few weeks…
Washington Court House, Ohio
On July 24, 2014, the city council in Washington Court House, Ohio voted UNANIMOUSLY to repeal the breed specific language related to pit bulls in their animal control ordinance. The change easily passed the three required votes of the council, and effective immediately, the city’s law no longer targets pit bull-type dogs.
After more than a year of debate and months of work by a committee revising the ordinance that regulates pit bull-type dogs in the city of Reynoldsburg, the city council decided to change absolutely nothing. Only Councilman Daniel Skinner voted in favor of changing the ordinance banning pit bulls.
Pit bulls have been banned in Reynoldsburg since 1996, and the law automatically deems all pit bulls as “ vicious.” Keeping a pit bull in the city is a second-degree misdemeanor.
Tammy Nortman, a Dayton-based lawyer representing several residents who’ve been cited for owning pit bulls, said the group might consider legal action against the city. She’s already working to defend owners who say their dogs were labeled pit bulls based on an arbitrary and incomplete set of criteria.
State of Delaware
On July 31, 2014, Delaware Governor Markell signed several animal protection bills to strengthen animal control laws and improve the safety and welfare of all who reside in the state – people and animals. The newly signed bills (1) strengthen the state’s vicious dog laws in order to protect citizens, as well as animals; (2) establish oversight and training programs for animal shelters and prohibit shelters from using gas chambers; (3) protect animals seized in criminal activity, cruelty, and animal fighting from automatic euthanasia and requires them to be individually evaluated by trained personnel; and (4) require training for animal control officers and investigators.
Carroll County, Mississippi
In early July, officials in Carroll County, Mississippi passed an ordinance, on its introduction and only reading, that regulates the ownership of “pit bulls.” The ordinance requires owners of pit bulls to: Spay/neuter their dogs; adhere to specific confinement regulations (both indoor and outdoor); muzzling requirements; and obtain liability insurance. In addition, no dwelling may have more than three dogs that bear the appearance of a “pit bull.” The ordinance is set to go into effect on August 9, 2014.
Because this ordinance was drafted and passed so quickly, with no resident input, I would encourage residents to bring this issue back to the council in order to engage in a true debate where all sides can be heard and considered.
The Aurora city council approved the addition of a question to the November ballot that will put the fate of the city’s pit bull ordinance in the hands of voters. The city ordinance, passed in 2005, bans residents from owning pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers that are not service dogs. The council approved the ballot measure with a 5-4 vote, and has until August 25 to formally adopt the measure to put on the November ballot.
At the city council meeting in May, residents of Wellsville, Kansas presented information to officials about the problems associated with breed specific laws, and asked the city council to consider repealing the city’s breed specific ordinance. In response, a public hearing was held in order to allow residents to voice their opinions on the proposal. The hearing was well attended, with many residents asking the council to target problem dog owners rather than specific breeds of dogs.
Nevertheless, on July 9, 2014, the city council voted 4-1 to keep its ordinance banning Pit Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Terriers from the city limits. Councilmen Dave Edwards, Cory Cunningham, Jared Eggleston and Dave Rogers voted in favor of keeping the ban, with Mike McAfee casting the lone vote to repeal it.
fort thomas, Kentucky
After weeks of debate on whether to repeal the 26 year-old-pit bull ordinance in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, the city council decided on August 4 to keep the ban in place. Despite announcing at the last meeting on July 7 that the council planned to hold additional public forums on the issue, and having received a majority of positive response from residents to move forward with repeal, the council made its decision based on recent incidents in neighboring Ohio.
However, the Safety Committee did recommend the current ordinance on pit bulls be reviewed in the future for possible changes, and council members indicated they would likely bring the issue up again.
New Llano, Louisiana
A federal judge barred enforcement of a ban on pit bull-type dogs in the town of New Llano until she hears a challenge to the ordinance. The lawsuit was brought by Victor and Christine Nelson, whose dog, Mazzy, was seized by the town after a DNA test indicated she is half American Staffordshire terrier. The Nelson’s lawsuit says the ordinance violates equal protection, property and due process rights by letting the town seize the dogs and put them to death.
In addition to barring enforcement of the law, the judge’s Order also allowed the Nelsons to bring Mazzy home from the boarding facility where she has been for nine months. The breed specific ordinance passed in March 2013 bans “dogs that have the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of dogs known as Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier.” The Nelsons moved to New Llano in August 2013.
A trial date is expected to be set soon.
Missouri Valley, Iowa
In June, a Missouri Valley resident asked the city council to amend its pit bull ordinance after his dog was seized by police. He presented a petition to the council, and they decided to explore changes that could allow pit bulls to reside in city limits with certain restrictions.
According to the minutes of the subsequent council meeting, city officials agreed that the manner in which a dog is raised, as well as irresponsible ownership practices lead to “vicious” dogs, but because all dog owners are not responsible, the council stated they “had to consider the overall impact” of amending the ordinance.
Councilman Ratliff motioned to deny the request to amend the ordinance, and the motion carried on a 3-1 vote, with only Councilman Isom voting in favor of amending the law.
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior releases position paper on BSL
Based on their concern over the propensity of various communities’ reliance on breed specific legislation (BSL) as a tool to decrease the risk of dog bites to humans, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) has published a new position paper in which they reject its use.
The AVSAB holds the position that breed specific legislation is “ineffective, and can lead to a false sense of community safety, as well as welfare concerns for dogs identified (often incorrectly) as belonging to specific breeds.”
The AVSAB acknowledged the critical importance of the reduction of dog bites in communities, and stressed that “responsible dog ownership and public education must be a primary focus of any dog bite prevention policy.”
The well-researched paper breaks down the issues surrounding dog bites and breed specific legislation in the following categories:
- Facts About Dog Bites;
- What is Breed Specific Legislation?;
- What Breeds Bite?
- Breed Misidentification;
- Why Do Dogs Bite
- Results of Breed Specific Legislation; and
- What Does Work? Effective Ways to Reduce the Incidence of Aggression.
The final page of the paper is dedicated to citations that backup the research and opinions set forth therein.
This is a strong position paper with sound arguments against the use of breed specific legislation as an effective means of animal control.