January is the month that most states begin to propose bills for new legislation for the year. Breed-Specific laws are a popular topic in many states. While a few states are proposing ill-conceived bills to target specific breeds based on the input of a key constituent, more are looking to protect their citiznes from ill-conceived and arbitrary legislation that targets dogs by how they look on a local level. Here is the latest.
In New Mexico, Republican Rep Yvette Herrell has proposed HB 63that is a bill that would prohibit local governments from passing breed-specific legislation in the state. The bill would resemble a law passed last year in Massachussetts (we'll talk more about that one in a bit) and has the support of local animal welfare organizations and a group called Ban Breed-Specific Legislation in New Mexico -- who's organizer Melissa Roberts notes "We need to get out of reactive, knee-jerk mode. Breed Specific Legislation doesn't address the issue of dog bites and it prevents real conversation from happening."
The only opposition that is even expected is maybe from the New Mexico Municpal League -- which like most municpal leagues prefers local control of this and all issues. Here's the thing, local governments have often shown they lack the ability to listen to expert opinion when it comes to breed-specific laws (expert opinion almost universally is opposed to such legislation) - -and sometimes the states need to protect residents from these types of politicians.
Th bill has been assigned to the Health and Government Affairs Committee.
Best of luck to the folks in New Mexico!
Last year, the state of Massachussetts passed a law that prohibited breed-specific legislation in what has become model legislation elsewhere in this country. It's not a new concept -- in fact, 12 other states have similar legislation prohibiting laws targeting breeds of dogs including states like Illinois, Virginia, Oklahoma, New York, Texas, California, Florida and Colorado (note, that some localalities in those states have bans though because of Home Rule or old laws were grandfathered in).
The Massachussetts bill was, fortunately, particularly strong as it did not allow for exceptions for Home Rule, and forced communities with existing laws to overturn them. While most cities with existing laws, like Worcester, Martha's Vineyard and Lowell simply changed their city laws, the folks in Boston have decided to waste taxpayer dollars to try to change the law.
The new law is written so that it would allow cities to enact breed-specific laws if "a city or town deems a specific breed to be deemed dangerous through analysis of municipal attack data and by a majority vote of the city council with the approval of the mayor."
Given the propensity of cities (like Boston) to manipulate data to "prove" whatever they want to prove, this is just a waste.
The bill is SD1247, and was proposed by Senator Michael Rush (of Boston) and is really appears to have only the support of people within boston.
Given that the state just discussed this ordinance a year ago to pass it in the first place, I don't expect Boston to have a lot of success. Already, several media reports have come out saying the attempt at changing the law is "not fair, sensible" -- noting that dog bites in Boston hae not decreased in Boston since their breed-specific law was passed 8 years ago (good for this author for having the data, I've made repeated FOI requests to Boston over the years and they never can produce the information when I ask).
The Massachussetts SPCA (those testy experts again) also oppose the change.
Hopefully the legislators in Massachussetts will stick to their initial impressions after passing the well-thought-out bill last year and Boston will succumb to reality that their law is not progressive, not effective, and not recommended or supported by any professional organization with knowledge of canine behavior.
In Maryland, attempts are once again underway by state officials to legally overturn a court ruling from a year ago.
In April of 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a ruling that essentially stated that 'pit bulls' and their mixes were presumed dangerous by the nature of their breed. The ruling creates a whole host of problems for owners of pit bull type dogs, landlords, and insurance companies.
The legislators in Maryland tried to swiftly overturn the court argument, but ran out of time before the end of the session. However, the legislature is back in session and thus a repeal bill is back on the table. Delegate Luiz Simmons has submitted a bill that he thinks provides balance between victims of dog bites and dog owners and will "restore sanity" to the Maryland law regarding dog bites.
The bill is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, January 30. If approved (which I fully expect) the bill will pass as emergency legislation and take effect immediately. Best of luck to those in Maryland at getting this bill passed quickly.
I'm hesitant to even mention this one at this point, but I do think it's pretty important. Two weeks ago, Senater Patrick Anderson (Enid) was proposing a bill that would eliminate the state's ban on breed-specific legislation. While the bill wasn''t targeting specific breeds, it would have allowed individual communities to enact laws targeting specific breeds.
However, a week and a half after proposing the bill, he abandoned the proposal after realizing there was no support for the measure.
More and more legislators are realizing there is no professional support for breed-specific laws and that they are ill-conceived and very difficult to enforce.