Federal law suit challenges constitutionality of breed specific ordinance in the Village of Fall River, Wisconsin

The owner of two dogs in Wisconsin has filed a federal lawsuit against the Village of Fall River for its law related to the ownership of “pit bulls and other dangerous animals.”

Section 7-1-9 of the Village of Fall River Code states:

 (a) It shall be unlawful to keep, harbor, own or in any way possess within the corporate limits of the Village of Fall River…

(3) Any pit bull dog provided that pit bull dogs registered with the Village on the day this Section becomes effective may be kept within the Village subject to the standards and requirements set forth in Subsection (b) of this Section.

The requirements under the code include the dog wearing a leash and muzzle when not confined; outdoor and indoor confinement requirements; signage, registration and $50,000 liability insurance policy.

The Code goes on to define a “pit bull” as:

  1. The Staffordshire bull terrier breed of dog;
  2. The American pit bull terrier breed of dog;
  3. The American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog;
  4. Any dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, or a combination of any of these breeds.

Madelyn Wissell Buchda has lived in Fall River with her two dogs, Diesel and Thor, since 2011. Buchda, obtained licenses for her mixed-breed dogs on December 10, 2013, and ironically, received citations for violating the village code just 3 days later.

Officials verbally ordered the two dogs, which are rescues and whose breeds are unknown to Buchda, be removed from the village limits. Out of fear for the safety and welfare of her dogs, Buchda began boarding them outside the village’s jurisdiction, and she continues to board the dogs at her expense “under threat of the village impounding and euthanizing them” if they return to the village.

The complaint filed in federal court demands a preliminary injunction and a finding that that the law in question is unconstitutional.  The complaint states that Thor and Diesel “are regarded by Plaintiff as both sentient personalities and as immediate family members. ”  The complaint goes on to state, “Thor and Diesel are companion animals, have never bitten any person or animal, have no animal control history or complaints, [and] are not aggressive.”

We certainly wish Ms. Buchda the best of luck in the pursuit of her lawsuit, and we are extremely hopeful the end result will be one less town with a breed specific ordinance.

If you happen to be a resident of the Village of Fall River, please reach out to your town officials and ask them to seriously consider repealing the current biased code that (unconstitutionally) interferes with the rights of property owners.  After all,  YOUR tax dollars will be funding the village’s defense of this discriminatory law.

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