Yesterday, I posted a little overview of Missouri HB 1116/ SB 865. The law is a well-thought-out and has nearly unanimous professional support which is why similar bills have recently passed in both Utah and South Dakota.
However, in spite of this, there is, of course some opposition.
Last week, the city of Kansas City passed a resolution asking for the state to not pass these laws. The resolution was rushed through the council as an emergency resolution (so no one that would have testified against it was aware it was happening until it was too late), and was, as such, very poorly worded including even having the incorrect month and year of the passing of its own breed-specific ordinance.
In following up with several members of the city council, the over-riding theme of their opposition is about ongoing frustration with the state Legislature trying to override local city and county laws. The argument is for local control of these laws (not so much the content of the law itself).
First of all, I admit, that in general principal I half agree with the city on the local control front. Generally speaking, I do think animal control laws should, in theory, be a local government issue. However, here's the simple truth, if city governments continue to pass irresponsible laws without any expert or factual support (and most often, in spite of expert and factual opposition), at some point the state does need to come in and protect people from these laws.
Kansas City is a perfect example.
The Kansas City ordinance was originally passed in the hysteria of the moment in 2006 after a couple of major dog attacks in neighboring communities and the city felt pressure to "do something". They did, and passed a law that requires mandatory sterilization of pit bulls at 8 weeks of age. But if you break down the law, it is something that has no professional support, and no track record for success.
First of all, mandatory spay/neuter is a law that is opposed by most national experts.
Secondly, singling out a particular breed of dogs also has nearly unanimous expert opposition, including from the Center for Disease Control, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Bar Association and the National Animal Control Association.
Thirdly, the law requires sterilization at an extremely young age (8 weeks) before dogs have fully developed -- which scientific studies are showing may lead to many health issues, including cranial cruciate ligament damage -- an affliction that pit bulls are already highly susceptable to.
Meanwhile, because the primary reason people don't already spay/neuter their pets is because they can't afford the surgery -- so the law itself is now placing undue burden those who are economically challenged.
And then, there are the painful numbers that point to the negative impact the law has had on the shelter population and a large number dead dogs.
Yet, in spite of this, the 8 year old law still remains in place with city support -- which highlights exatly why a state preemption law is necessary.
If cities want local control, they need to earn it through good governence, and right now that's just not happening. If cities won't get rid of the laws on their own, in spite of the evidence, it's time for the state to step in and force change to protect people, communities and dogs from these bad laws.
I do think that law-abiding people should have a reasonable expectation of what is, or is not, a criminal activity as they move throughout the state. Let's take me as an example. I live in Kansas City with two, altered pit bulls. I'm a law abiding citizen with a clean track record. I load up my dogs in my car and set out on a road trip. Within 15 miles of my road trip on all six major highways leading out of Kansas City I will eventually enter a community where I will be breaking the law. At that point, even though neither I, nor my dogs have done anything wrong, I could be pulled over, have my dogs seized for being illegal in that community and subsequentyly killed.
This also prevents the free movement of people who get new jobs and seek to relocate, but have trouble finding communities to live in where they, and their family pets would be welcome -- solely because of the type of dog they own. These factors do have economic implications.
Things are changing. Over the past few years, many Missouri communities have already repealed their breed-specific laws, including: Clayton, Riverside, Greenwood, Osceola, Manchester, Wentzville, Town & Country, and Overland. While I feel that the eventual elimination of breed specific laws in Missouri is inevitable, it is still happening too slowly and costing to many people their pets, and too many pets their lives.
By the time you finish reading this, somewhere in our state a dog has lost its home due to its perceived breed, been passed over for adoption due to breed bans in the adopters town or very well may have lost its life due to non-adoption policies like those in Springfield.
Please support Missouri HB 1116 and SB 865 as proposed. As Utah, South Dakota, and 16 other states have done, and protect Missouri residents from ill-thought-out local laws.