Windsor, Missouri: Public Hearing to discuss pit bull ordinance on June 4

The City of Windsor, Missouri is holding a public hearing on Thursday, June 4th, at 7:30 pm, to discuss “possible changes” related to the city’s ordinance addressing the ownership of “pit bulls.”  Currently, §210.110 of the Windsor city code bans the ownership of pit bulls and pit bull crosses.  Although I have been unable to find a copy of the actual ordinance online, the individual seeking our assistance and support advises it is one of the strictest bans in the country.

With that in mind, please reach out to the Windsor city officials and encourage them to repeal the city’s current discriminatory ordinance and replace it with a law that not only deems dogs dangerous based on their individual behavior and actions rather than by their breed or appearance, but also respects the property rights of dog owners who live within the city.

Please send your polite and respectful letters encouraging this positive change to the Windsor officials at the e-mail address listed below. In order to ensure the appropriate officials receive your correspondence, please address your letters to the city clerk, Kim Henderson, with a polite request asking her to forward to each city council member for his or her review.

Kim Henderson, City Clerk/Manager

Windsor City Hall
110 W. Benton
Windsor, MO 65360

In addition, if you are in the area, please make every effort to attend the public hearing this Thursday (June 4) at 7:30 p.m. in the City Hall Annex in a show of support for potential positive change in the city of Windsor, Missouri.


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.

Cincinnati, OH: Committee meeting on “pit bull” proposal on March 2, 2015

City officials in Cincinnati, Ohio are proposing that all pit bull owners pay  a registration fee and also require their dogs to wear a “special collar.”

I have confirmed with the council clerk that this proposal is scheduled to be heard before the Law and Public Safety Committee this MONDAY (March 2) at 10:00 a.m.  Depending on the results of that committee meeting, the proposal could actually go to a council vote on WEDNESDAY.

Cincinnati residents, time is of the essence. Please reach out to the members of the Law & Public Safety Committee TODAY and urge them to decline to entertain this proposal.

Committee meetings are open to the public and held in Council Chambers, Room 300, City Hall, 801 Plum St., in Cincinnati.  If you would like to address the committee members, please arrive before 10:00 a.m. and request a speaker card from Courtney, the council clerk.  Your presentation will be limited to 2 or 3 minutes (at the discretion of the committee chair).

Cincy residents, I know you’re all too familiar with the fight against breed discrimination, but as always, please be polite and respectful in all your communications with city officials.

Law and Public Safety Committee Members

Christopher Smitherman, Chair

Kevin Flynn, Vice Chair

Yvette Simpson

Wendell Young

Charles Winburn

Help shelter “bullys” in Grapevine, TX get the chance of adoption they deserve!

An effort is underway by residents of Grapevine, Texas to change the city’s animal shelter policy which currently does not allow pit bulls or pit bull mixes to be adopted, placed on the adoption floor or even listed on their website. While the staff works with partnering agencies to find alternative placement for any animal that cannot be on the adoption floor, in reality, these dogs have little to no exposure, and are very often euthanized.

According to shelter staff, however, this policy is currently under review by the City of Grapevine.

While I do not see the issue on any upcoming agendas, please reach out to city officials and encourage them to repeal their policy which prohibits the adoption of “pit bull-type” dogs and ask them to implement in its place a policy that would afford all dogs the opportunity of adoption based on their individual temperaments and personalities. This type of policy would give ALL dogs, particularly mixed breeds who’ve been labeled as “pit bulls” by shelter staff, a better chance at adoption.

As experts point out,  breed labels issued at shelters are often inaccurate because staff members are simply guessing at a dog’s breed based on the way he or she looks, and these extremely subjective breed assessments (which can, and often do, vary from person to person), literally either mean the chance for a new life or a guaranteed death sentence to these dogs – regardless of their age, their temperament or their disposition – in other words, their true “adoptability” isn’t even a consideration.

In November 2012, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) published an article entitled Rethinking Dog Breed Identification in Veterinary Practices.  The article questions visual dog breed identification given the vast percentage of mixed-breed dogs in the United States, and discusses studies that demonstrate that physical appearance of a dog is not a good indicator of breed. The authors assert that incorrect identification of a dog’s breed based on visual inspection can lead to misidentification and negative consequences, and they recommended a shift toward a non-breed-based system given the ramifications that misidentification could have both from a legal, as well as quality-of-life, perspective.

More importantly, a dog’s breed is in no way a justification for whether it is worthy of adoption. We know dogs are individuals and every dog should be given the opportunity to show his or her personality without a discriminatory and negative stereotype hanging over their head, inhibiting their chance for adoption into a loving home…which is what each and every shelter dog deserves…and what every shelter should be ultimately striving for.

Please send a polite and respectful letter to the Grapevine city officials listed below and encourage them to put an end to the shelter’s policy that discriminates against dogs deemed to be certain breeds and, instead, to allow each and every dog that enters their facility a fair shot and opportunity at adoption into a loving family.  As always, please keep in mind that the manner in which you communicate with officials makes a very big difference, and your words – both positive and negative – truly matter.  This is an important issue, and if you can’t make your point in a civil manner, for the sake of the dogs, leave it to those who can.

Mayor and city council:,,,,,,

City Manager Bruno Rumbelow:

Agendas and council meeting minutes can be found here:

Pit bull ordinance being drafted in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas

A concerned citizen is reaching out for help in opposing an ordinance proposed by the mayor of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas which targets “pit bulls.”  The city council has been discussing a vicious dog ordinance for several months, and at their November council meeting, Mayor Don House described “pit bulls” as a “very real safety issue to the public.”

Despite a debate on how the city would handle breed identification and mixed-breed dogs, Alderman Dixon made a motion to have the city attorney draft an ordinance that would ban pit bulls.  Once the council receives the draft ordinance, they will hold three public meetings before taking a vote.

It is not known when this issue will be before the council next, but a city official recently advised it would likely be taken up after the first of the year.

Accordingly, please send your polite, respectful and informative letters in opposition to breed discriminatory legislation to the Walnut Ridge city officials listed below, and encourage them to focus on problem dog owners rather than specific breeds of dogs.  It is also recommend that you forward for their consideration the NAIA publication “A Guide to Constructing Successful, Pet Friendly ordinances.”  The guide has some excellent points that would help the city officials make a more informed and educated decision that does not involve regulating certain breeds of dogs.

You may also want to share a copy of the American Bar Association House of Delegates Resolution 100, passed on August 6, 2012, which calls for laws regarding dangerous dogs to be “breed neutral.”  The resolution states:

The American Bar Association urges all state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and government agencies to adopt breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws that ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership, and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs, and to repeal any breed discriminatory or breed specific legislation.

Considering the aldermen have already broached the subject of problematic breed identification, please point out the difficulties of identifying so-called “pit bulls,” including the fact that “pit bull” is not a breed of dog but, rather, it is a catch-all term for a broad grouping of dogs, and the number of specific breeds that fall into that grouping varies widely depending on the individual making the determination.  Most 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 in many breeds are extremely similar.

In addition, emphasize that breed bans carry with them too much potential for arbitrary or improper enforcement.  Because breed identification by animal control officers is subjective (or arbitrary), it opens the city to liability and litigation issues at tax payer expense in the event of mistaken identification.  Despite any assertions to the contrary, the burden of breed identification falls on the city — NOT dog owners — and will require DNA testing at the city’s expense.

Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments with respect to why breed specific legislation fails is that it neglects to address the issue of irresponsible dog ownership – the true cause of problem dogs in any community.  Breed specific laws place the blame squarely on the dogs themselves and removes the responsibility from the dog owner.  In effect, breed specific laws let reckless and negligent dog owners off the hook.  Moreover, because regulating breeds of dogs does not address the very real issue of irresponsible owners, many areas that have enacted breed regulations have actually experienced an increase in dog bite/attack incidents of dog breeds NOT covered by the breed specific law – the exact opposite desired result of any animal control ordinance.  Only when you see more owners understand their responsibilities and become committed to providing the proper training, care, socialization and supervision for their dogs, will dog bite incidents be reduced.

Last, but certainly not least, breed specific laws infringe on dog owners’ property rights.  Despite the negative connotation some may associate with labeling dogs as “property,” the bottom line is, in the eyes of the law, that’s exactly what they are.  That being said, it is universally understood that the legal description attached to dogs has absolutely no bearing on the affection and appreciation dog owners have for their dogs, nor does it have any impact on or change the fact that dogs are meaningful and beloved members of their families. Moreover, designating dogs as “property” is extremely important to the fight against breed specific laws because “property owners” must be afforded due process.  In short, a government’s authority is limited by the Constitution, which is where dogs’ legal classification as “property” comes into play.  According to the Constitution, the government cannot deprive you of your property without giving you due process – that is, notice and a chance to have a hearing. By automatically declaring dogs dangerous because of their perceived breed or appearance, dog owners are deprived of due process.

Everyone agrees that ensuring community safety is of the utmost importance. Also important, however, are dog owners’ rights not to have their dog declared “dangerous” without notice, a hearing, or an appeal process.

Dog ownership is a responsibility, and individual dog owners — not entire communities — need to be held accountable when they fail to live up to those responsibilities and the duty owned to their dogs, as well as their communities. Community safety is achieved by strictly enforcing animal control laws that are already in place, not passing laws that reckless and negligent dog owners have already proven to hold with little to no regard.

The Walnut Ridge city council meets on the second Tuesday of each month. Agendas are not available online, but as long as this issue is on the table, if you’re in the area, please make a point of attending upcoming meetings in a show of unified opposition to breed specific laws.

Please note that there have been reports of e-mails bouncing for the city council members, and the mayor’s e-mail is not made available, so you may want to address your correspondence to the city’s administrative assistant, Sue Hilburn, sent via fax or e-mail, with a polite request to distribute to each alderman and the mayor.

Administrative Assistant
Sue Hilburn

City Hall
300 W. Main Street
Walnut Ridge, AR 72476
Phone: 870-886-6638
Fax: 870-886-6147

Walnut Ridge City Council:,,,,,,,

Finally, on a personal note, I want to thank everyone for your messages and concern in response to my absence over the last few months. As you all know, my dogs mean the world to me, and while its hard to believe, Harlan, my perpetual puppy, the dog I thought would never grow out of adolescence, is closing in on 13, and has begun to act, and sadly, feel his age.  After Tiffin passed (at the age of 13), my heart was heavy with guilt over the time I spent with all the dogs here and, frankly, the enormous amount of time I spent with my butt planted in front of the computer. While I still have many dogs to share my time with, the one thing I can do is reduce the time I spend on the computer and devote that to my dogs. This doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned the fight against breed discrimination, and please know that I am always here for anyone that needs help. Of course, we can never know when our time here will come to pass, but I can know that I made every effort to spend as much time and give as much attention to Harlan as I possibly could.

To that end, I know that all of you have dogs that hold a very special place in your heart, and the responsible dog owners in Walnut Ridge are no exception.  Lets do our part to ensure that that they, too, have the opportunity to enjoy full and long lives with their beloved dogs, as well.

Please make your voice heard, and oppose this ordinance.

Playing catch-up…several updates and news!

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.

Reynoldsburg, Ohio

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.

Aurora, Colorado

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.

Wellsville, Kansas

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.

Both KC Dog Blog and Steve Dale have summarized the new paper, and it can be found in its entirety here. 

El Dorado, KS: Residents say “NO” to proposed dangerous breed list; continue push to repeal long-standing pit bull ban

Back in February, I was contacted by a resident of El Dorado, Kansas with news that her city commissioners had agreed to entertain discussions on repealing the city’s pit bull ban. She asked for support in encouraging her city leaders to replace their breed specific ordinance with a law that deems dogs dangerous based on their behavior, and targets irresponsible and negligent owners whose create problem dogs in a community.

The current ordinance, Title 6 § 20.040, enacted in 1988, states as follows:

It is unlawful to keep, harbor, own or in any way possess within the corporate limits of the city any pit bull dog as defined by administrative regulation; provided that pit bull dogs properly registered with the city by March 1, 1988, and kept within the city continuously since that time, may remain within the city subject to the requirements set forth in Section 6.20.060 of this chapter.

When I spoke with the City Manager’s assistant in February, she confirmed that the commissioners would be to holding a work session geared toward collecting, distributing and discussing information that will help the commissioners conduct their due diligence on the issue, and it was considered a positive sign that the commissioners agreed to take up the twenty-six year old ban.

However, the optimism residents felt was replaced with frustration when we learned in April that the city commission tabled the discussions on repealing the ban on pit bulls and, instead, actually began researching additional breeds to be regulated by the city. At that time, the public works director indicated that up to 12 dog breeds were being researched, including Doberman Pinscher, chow, German Shepherd, Rottweiler and others.

At this week’s commissioners meeting on Monday, August 4, dozens of residents voiced their strong opposition to the proposal to not only retain the current breed specific law, but to implement regulations including an annual registration fee, mandatory microchipping, sterilization, and liability insurance for additional breeds the city deemed “dangerous.”

Fortunately, the opposition to the establishment of a “dangerous breed list” wasn’t limited to residents. Some commissioners said they, too, did not support the list created by city staff because it doesn’t acknowledge the dogs who actually are problematic but, instead, punishes all dogs.

An alternate proposal of city staff is a three-strike system where pet owners would be required to pay significant fines for the first and second incident before the animal is removed from the city, as well as good registration programs, altering, or microchipping.

No decisions were made on Monday night, and the commissioners advised they will continue to research the matter.

Please continue to reach out to the El Dorado city commissions to (1) thank them for considering repealing the city’s long-standing pit bull ordinance and (2) encourage them to replace the existing ordinance with a breed-neutral law that has a strong focus on irresponsible dog owners, and deems dogs dangerous based on their behavior, not their breed.

El Dorado City Commissioners:

Bill Young:
Chase Locke:
Nick Badwey:
David Chapin:

City of El Dorado
220 E 1st Street
El Dorado, KS 67042
(316) 321-9100
Fax: (316) 321-6282