People make decisions. And often they make quick decisions based on somewhat limited information. It's human nature. We cannot possibly research every single element of our lives to the fullest. So we often form opinions quickly.
The danger of this is that it becomes human nature to be more prone to DEFENDING their position on a particular topic than it is to actually CHANGE that opinion based on new data.
And thus is the situation with two communities that are defending their breed-specific policies.
Last night, in Denver, the city council again voted to delay a vote on whether or not to file an exemption of 'pit bull' service dogs from the city's 20 year old breed ban.
The city council has continued to delay a vote on this subject after the Department of Justice offered its final rule this summer on the topic of servcie dogs. In their ruling they said of the ADA:
"The Department does not believe that it is either appropriate or consistent with the ADA to defer to local laws that prohibit certain breeds of dogs based on local concerns that these breeds may have a history of unprovoked aggression or attacks. Such deferences would have the effect of limiting the rights of persons with disabilities...state and local government entities have the ability to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular animal can be excluded based on that particular animal's actual behavior -- not based on fears or generalizations about how the animal or breed might behave."
While the Department of Justice's ruling could not be more clear that exceptions for service dogs must be made from the city's breed ban -- at least two city council members, Jeanne Faatz and Charlie Brown, wanted to vote down an exemption for service dogs because they viewed the federal regulations as an intrusion on the authority of local governments. This "intrusion" is exactly why laws like the ADA exist -- to prevent local authorities from targeting individuals and limit their access and opportunities based on a particular disability.
That fact seems to be lost on Brown, Faatz, and others on the council.
This delayed decision comes at a time when the city is facing multiple lawsuits for their violation of the ADA....and the taxpayer money continues to fund the city's self rationalization that in spite of all of the science and research that contradicts them, somehow they are right in their breed ban and everyone else is wrong.
Meanwhile in Omaha, the city council will tonight look at a change in the city's 2 year old law that would prevent 'pit bulls' (very broadly defined as American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Dogo Argention, Presa Canario, Cane Corso, American Bulldogs or any mix of those breeds) from having to wear a muzzle until they reach 6 months of age. Currently all of the targeted breeds are required to be leashed, muzzled and harnessed while in public unless the dog passes the Canine Good Citizen Test.
Pam Wiese -- a spokesperson for the Nebraska Humane Society (which owns the animal control contract for the city of Omaha) - said that the required muzzling of pit bull puppies prevented them from socializing normally. This is obviously one of the major drawbacks of laws that require muzzling -- muzzling and containment laws targeting specific breeds are designed to force isolation (I pointed this out as a problem 2 years ago when this was being discussed). Forcing isolation, and thus, causing lack of socialization, is a recipe for creating a whole mess of under-socialized dogs. This is especially true for puppies, so fortunately the council looks willing to make this change, but is very important for dogs of all ages. It would be great if the Nebraska Humane Society -- and the Omaha city council - would recognize the importance of socialization for targeted dogs of all ages. However, once the city has said "This is a good idea" it seems like they are unwilling to look at the reality that the whole law was a knee-jerk reaction that was based on a faulty premise in the first place.
Meanwhile, also of interest, the council is looking at decreasing the fines for at-large dogs -- decreasing the fines for unaltered dogs from $300 to $100 on the first offense and from $600 to $300 on the 2nd. They realized the high fees were preventing anyone from picking up their animals at the shelter and NHS has noted that since the law passed they have seen a significant increase in the number of impounded animals left at the Humane Society (which generally translates to higher kill rates, although NHS does not make those numbers available to the public).
Meanwhile, Weise says the rest of the 2008 ordinance is "working well" -- although I guess actually decreasing dog bites isn't a requirement for "working" as bites in Omaha have gone up since the ordinance was put into effect after 3 years of declines prior to the ordinance passing. "Working" is apparently a very relative term.