In January, 2007, Louisville, KY passed its version of a dangerous dog ordinance. The ordinance was discussed for over a year -- following an incident where two people were attacked by a dog and killed. Drafters of the original bill proposed a ban on certain breeds, but after a lot of discussion, the ordinance took new life and focused mostly on spaying & neutering. The entire ordinance is 91 pages long (which should tell you that it is too much) -- and was promoted by HSUS. Some of the key elements of the ordinance include:
-- an increase in licensing fees from $7 to $9
-- licensing for unaltered dogs is $50
-- dogs that come into animal control (for any reason), the dog will be altered before it is returned to its owner
-- limits on the number of animals a person can own (based on the size of the person's property).
-- fencing, leashing, and kennel requirements for "dangerous" dogs and unaltered dogs.
-- prohibits the sale or transfer of ownership of unalterd dogs, or advertise the sale of said dogs and gives animal control more oversite on the sale of dogs (including that they must be contatcted and made aware of all sales). I'm a little unclear on this part of the ordinance - which is quite scary and a problem.
-- Prohibits the amount of time a dog can be tethered to no more than 1 hour from 8 am - 6 pm
-- It seems as if any unalterd dogs kept for virtually any purpose will cause you to have to get an annual kennel license -- and there are 3 classifications of a kennel license.
I think you get the idea. Obviously a big part of the ordinance is really tight restrictions on unaltered dogs and much higher fees for unaltered dogs. It's a little unclear at this point of the intent of the law. Certainly, improving public safety from dog bites was the cause of this ordinance -- but it sounds like there were some 'pet overpopulation" issues that also led to the focus on the spay/neuter part of this.
Let's start this with the knowledge that legislation was orginally proposed in 2006, talked about throughout the year and then eventually passed in January 2007. In most cases, we've seen euthanasia number increase even when new legislation is proposed (not just passed). So with that,
So how are things going?
2005 (Partial year numbers): 259
2007 - 582 (22% increase)
2008 -- 837 (44% increase)**
** Note: I'm not sure you can read much into the 2008 numbers. Prior to 2008, the Health Department bites were not always reported to Metro Animal services. Starting in 2008, the records for the two entities were combined. The 2008 numbers are more accurate -- but the increase here is very misleading.
However, I do want to note that at 582 bites is a LOT for a city of 712,000. By comparison, San Francisco (population 799,000), had approximately 438 bites in 2007. Kansas City, MO (populatoin 448,000) had 312 bites in 2007. They've also had at least one dog bite fatality since all of this went down -- which is just about unheard of for one city to have 3 people killed by dogs in a 3 year time period.
2005 -- Intake: 11,962 Euthanasia: 7,683
2006 -- Intake: 14,178 Euthanasia: 9,340
2007 - Intake: 15,206 Euthanasia: 10,138
2008 -- Intake: 15,920 Euthanasia: 9,388
I'm not 100% sure what year to use as the baseline -- but suffice it to say, intake has continued to increase since they began talking about this ordinance. 2008 intake was up 12% over 2006, and up 33% over 2005.
2007 euthanasia was up 9% over 2006 and up 32% over 2005.
2008 numbers dropped 7%, but still remain over their 2006 levels, and certainly higher than the 2005 levels before all of the talk broke out.
In most cases, when you increase the opportunities for animal control to seize animals from homes for reasons other than abuse, you will inevitably find that it will have a dramatic increase in Intake -- which inevitably increases euthanasia, because shelters aren't able to handle the influx of animals when they are already overcrowded.
The bite numbers would initially seem confusing -- why would all the regulations lead to an increase in bite numbers?
However, last week, the Louisville Courier Journal had an article about attempts by animal control, 2 years after passing this ordinance, to crack down on people who were illegally breeding dogs and owning unaltered dogs. Their methods include poring over newspaper ads and online ads (like Craigslist) looking for pets for sale, and then calling the unlicensed breeders, going in undercover as a potential buyer, and then stinging them. Many in the Louisville area are questioning their tactics.
The amount of resources being used to enforce this no doubt has taken away from essential duties like rounding up stray dogs and dealing with truly aggressive dogs.
From looking at these numbers, it is difficult for me to see any way that someone could twist these numbers and declare that the Louisville ordinance is working so far. While other cities look to pass similar ordinances, mandating spay/neuter with the hopes of decreasing aggression or the dog population, I think it is important for them to look at how other cities have performed with similar ordinances. In Louisville's case, it certainly hasn't been working.
(Bite and euthanasia numbers came to me via email from people within Metro Animal Services in Louisville. Their response was easily the fastest and most polite I've ever received fro a city.)