At their respective meetings this week, city commissioners in Danville, Kentucky and the Boyle County, Kentucky magistrates discussed at length possible changes to their animal control ordinances.
Boyle County Attorney Richard Campbell attended the meetings, and he was asked for an update on what might be done to strengthen the dog ordinances for both the city and the county. Campbell advised he has been researching ordinances enacted by other communities, including Bracken County’s ordinance banning pit bulls. Campbell noted that Bracken’s law has been upheld by the state Court of Appeals.
This suggestion, however, did not sit well with all the officials, and some voiced concerns about prohibiting specific breeds of dogs. Magistrate Jack Hendricks stated that any dog can be made vicious, and that he wasn’t sure the officials should pursue a breed ban.
In addition, Magistrate Patty Burke added, “…[i]t’s not the dogs, it’s the people who raise them. The problems start with irresponsible dog owners.”
It was ultimately agreed that city and county officials would share information and work together to come up with revised dog ordinances that are more consistent and effective.
The discussions came about after an incident in June wherein a resident’s “pack of presa canarios” escaped from their kennel and mauled a resident in Lincoln County. The dogs were in another county because they had previously been seized from their owner, Christopher Pope, after he was charged with animal cruelty. The dogs were subsequently returned to Pope as part of a plea deal, and he then moved the dogs to another location. Pope now rightly faces several criminal charges.
Its important to point out that the Danville city code as related to animal control is already strong, and the June incident was an anomaly (as noted by officials during the meetings), and responsible, law abiding dog owners should not be punished and subjected to discriminatory laws based on the failures of one dog owner to be responsible for his dogs.
Moreover, not only does the current city code set forth specific language for the care and control of animals in general, it goes a step further and addresses responsible dog ownership specifically. Section 3-32 of the Danville city code states as follows:
Duty of all dog owners to be responsible owners.
Every owner of a dog shall have the duty to exercise reasonable care and shall take all necessary steps and precautions to protect other people, property, and animals from injuries or damage which might result from the owner’s dog’s behavior, regardless of whether such behavior is motivated by mischievousness, playfulness, or ferocity. If the owner of any dog is a minor, the custodian, parent or guardian legally responsible for such minor shall also be responsible to ensure that all provisions of this article are followed.
Animal control ordinances, as with any law, are designed to deter certain behaviors and actions, and when the law is broken, making sure the individual who breaks the law is swiftly punished acts as a further deterrent. Mr. Pope broke the law, and Mr. Pope is facing serious consequences for his irresponsibility. The notion that an entire community of dog owners should suffer the consequences of Mr. Pope’s actions for no other reason than they own dogs that have similar physical characteristics is simply irrational and unreasonable.
Please encourage city and county officials to decline to entertain any ordinance or motion that would ban or restrict specific breeds of dogs. Encourage them, instead, to pursue stricter enforcement of the current law in Danville, and the adoption of a law in Boyle County similar to that which is already in place in Danville. Remind officials that breed bans are:
(1) ineffective, costly to all taxpayers in the community, and difficult to enforce;
(2) punish and create financial hardship on responsible, law abiding citizens; and
(3) interfere with property rights of dog owners.
Please send your polite and respectful letters in opposition to breed specific legislation to both the Boyle County and Danville city officials listed below. Danville offers a contact form on their website, but other than Mayor Perros, direct e-mail information for the individual city commissioners is not made available.
BOYLE COUNTY, KENTUCKY
Phillip R. Sammons
City of Danville, Kentucky
P.O. Box 670
Danville, KY 40423
FAX: (859) 238-1236
Mayor Mike Perros