In 2015, a bill was presented in the Michigan Senate that would prohibit local governments from enacting breed specific legislation. That bill, SB 239, passed in the state Senate, and it is currently pending before the House of Representatives Local Government Committee.
Senator David Robertson sponsored SB 239 because he believes that no dog should be banned from a community based on its appearance. In his remarks to the House Committee on Wednesday, Senator Robertson stated:
“[Breed specific laws] do not advance public safety, and [they] miss the mark. Outright banning of a domesticated breed is wrong because it’s not central to the point that the owner is squarely responsible for the behavior of their dog.”
Not only do breed specific laws take the onus off problem dog owners, they act as a cover for the true “problem dogs” in the community, all the while giving residents a false sense of security. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to accurately identify a dog’s breed by its appearance. While this law would protect all dogs, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that most breed specific ordinances target “pit bulls,” which is not a breed of dog. Many purebred dogs (and lets not forget dogs of mixed breeding) can and do resemble the physical characteristics of breeds that commonly end up on banned breed lists. A dog’s appearance is not an indicator of the danger it presents, nor should it be a death sentence.
Breed specific laws infringe the property rights of responsible dog owners, and responsible owners should not be barred from owning any type or breed of dog based solely on the appearance of a dog. The most effective ordinances are generic, breed-neutral laws that focus on the behavior and actions of individual dogs, as well as irresponsible, careless and reckless dog owners.
Finally, breed specific ordinances are costly to enforce, and they often spark lawsuits that must be defended by the municipalities that enact them, and ALL the costs associated with the same come directly from the tax payers.
Michiganders, do you want your hard earned tax dollars used to enforce laws that not only target innocent family pets and law abiding citizens, but also infringe on the rights of responsible pet owners for no reason other than their dog meets certain physical characteristics found on a very broad and vague checklist?
The Committee did not take a vote on SB 239 on Wednesday, but a vote is expected sometime this fall.
MICHIGAN RESIDENTS: Please reach out to the members of the Local Government Committee, and politely and respectfully encourage them to pass SB 239 to enhance the safety and the lives of both people and animals in Michigan. Contact information for the Committee members can be found at the link below, or you can send your correspondence to the Committee Clerk, Mary Lou Terrien (firstname.lastname@example.org), with a polite request to please distribute to each Committee member.
In addition, please also reach out to your respective House and Senate members. If you do not know who your elected officials are, you can find out here:
Find your Senator: http://www.senate.michigan.gov/fysbyaddress.html
Find your House Representative: http://www.house.mi.gov/mhrpublic/
House Local Government Committee: http://house.michigan.gov/mhrpublic/committeeinfo.aspx?comkey=341
Lee Chatfield, Committee Chair
As always, it is so very important to be polite and respectful in all your communications with officials. Our interactions DO make an impression, and our actions and words do effect the way our message is received.