Two years ago, the city of Lakewood passed a ban on all 'pit bulls' in the community. Last may, as a part of their enforcement of the ban, the city began harrassing a man, Leonard Shelton, because they said the dog he owned was a 'pit bull'.
Shelton, a military veteran who's dog,Roscoe, was helping him deal with post tramatic stress following his service overseas, claimed his dog was not a 'pit bull'.
After constant harrassment by city officials -- including animal control and the police department - Shelton went out and got a DNA test done on Roscoe. The test results showed that Roscoe was indeed, not a 'pit bull'. But police persisted. And after constant harrassment, Shelter decided to pack up Roscoe and move from town.
You can catch all of the back story here.
Now, Shelton is levying a lawsuit against the city of Lakewood -- to the tune of $475,000 for emotional and financial damages (including forced relocation). Shelton's suit claims that the city, and it's police department, are negligent in hiring, training and supervising staff to enforce the new law, negligent misrepresentation and because of the malicious discrimination, violated his civil rights and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. The lawsuit goes on to say that the city is using the pit bull ban to force out individuals it has judged to be "undesireable or unsavory."
It is probably worth mentioning here that Lakewood is a community that is 92% white, and Leonard Shelton is a minority.
You can read the entire complaint here.
Like most cities across the US, Lakewood has been struggling with balancing its budget --facing a $4.5 million deficit just two years ago -- which is a lot of money for a community of just 50,000 people that has seen a 10% decrease in population over the past decade. It would seem that harrassing a military veteran, who's dog showed no signs of aggression, wouldn't be the highest priority for the city -- and certainly not something the taxpayers of the city would prefer to pay half a million dollars in doing.
Cities with breed specific legislation from around the country continue to struggle with the enforcement of the laws and with the difficulties of breed identification. And Lakewood is joining the growing list of cities facing legal ramifications.
Which begs the question, why would any city subject themselves to this and harrass owners of well-behaved dogs instead of instituting a behavior-based ordinance that only focuses on aggressive dogs regardless of breed?
H/T: toLoveLakewood Blog on the story.