Over the last couple of weeks, BSL has gotten tremendously exposed for the failure that it is as communities across the country have again begun repealing bans....or in several cases, enforcing bans on the absolutely wrong people and displaying just how unfair, and ridiculous, laws targeting breeds of dogs are.
And I think there are two things to make particular note of as you read through the stories:
#1) The arbitrary nature of the law. Many of the folks in these stories had no idea the law applied to them and their dogs, and in one case, were told the law DIDN'T apply to them, and yet then it did. It makes laws targeting breeds impossible to enforce, and abide by.
#2) The ridiculous waste of resources for these communities and the taxpayers. No city government is so wealthy that they can afford everything. And in most communities, animal control is majoryly under-funded. So when resources are used to target people (and dogs) that are not a threat to public safety, these resources are being diverted from true public safety threats - meaning breed specific laws make people less safe, not more safe.
Two weeks ago, the city council in Hallsville, MO (population 1500) unanimously repealed its 20 year old breed ban after a family had their dog classified as a "pit bull" and they had no idea the dog would be impacted by the law.
The mayor in Hallsville, Cheri Reisch noted "This was an unfair law" -- noting that mixed breed dogs were extremely hard to identify. Meanwhile, Hallsville already has a vicious dog ordinance in place that targets aggressive dogs of any breed. So instead of their animal control or police department focusing their resources on non-aggressive dogs because may or may not be pit bulls, they can spend those resources on enforcing the city's vicious dog law. It's a good move by the community of Hallsville.
Camdenton, MO (Population 3,700) has a 25-year old pit bull ban. Under the ban, dogs that demonstrate 5 of 8 very generic characteristics are outlawed from the community. The very generic characteristics include:
-- Round to almond shaped eyes
-- High-set ears that can be cropped or not cropped
-- Muscular neck and shoulders
-- Medium length tail that is thicker at the base and tapers to a point
-- Single coat with short hair.
Yip, if your dog has a short coat, tapered tail, eyes and ears, it may be a pit bull.
So, before moving to her new home in Camdenton, Misty Brown called city hall to see if her dogs, both registered American Bulldogs (with papers) would be allowed to live in Camdenton. She was told that the dogs would be allowed, because the law only banned pit bulls.
However, two weeks after moving into her new home, Ms. Brown was given citations and asked to remove her dogs because they fit 5 of the 8 characteristics of a pit bull -- even though she could prove they were a different breed.
Brown now has to go to court (and the taxpayers are paying for the city to defend themselves) for what Brown's lawyer rightfully calls an "arbitrary law". It really doesn't get much more arbitrary than this. Meanwhile, resources are being used in this small community to kick dogs out of the community that have never caused harm, or acted aggressively.
I wish the best of luck for Ms. Brown as she fights to keep her dogs, who are members of her family, and hope she is allowed to stay in her new home.
Last week, the city council of Moreauville, LA (population 950) voted to enact a ban on pit bulls and Rottweilers. The law was set to go into effect on December 1. However, almost as soon as the law was passed, the city council quickly realized the negative impact on the law and are already now reconsidering it.
Almost immediately after enacting the ban, a local family was notified that they had to get rid of their family pit bull, Zeus. However, not only is Zeus a family pet that has never caused a problem, but he also acts as a service dog to the family's daughter, O'Hara, who uses a wheel chair and wears a halo brace because of neck problems, and the Zeus often awakes O'Hara's mother when she has spasms in the middle of the night.
After major opposition from the community, and the national exposure of the impact on Zeus and O'Hara, the city council has already begun considering changing the ordinance. Alderman Penn Lemoine noted that "It (the law) was a mistake. And it's got to be redone and reworded. And this December 1 date is not going to happen."
The city is considering maybe properly enforcing the city's leash law instead of banning specific breeds.
So again, instead of using resources to enforce the city's leash law, the city decided to use resources to take a dog from a precious little girl with medical problems.
This is not a done deal yet, but it does sound like the city is moving in the appropriate direction. They have lifted the December 1 deadline for removal of the dogs, and do plan to discuss the ordinance again at an emergency city council meeting. Best of luck to Zeus and the Owen Family.
The National Landscape
Stories like what are happening in these communities, and to these families, are changing the national landscape when it comes to breed-specific laws. Communities like Wauseon, OH are also considering repealing their breed bans because they realize they are ineffective, unfair, and a waste of community resources and that well written breed neutral laws have the ability to target vicious dogs, regardless of breed.
A recent USA Today article notes that more than 100 communities across the country have ditched their breed-specific laws in just the past two years in favor of behavior-based, breeed neutral laws which are more effective in increasing public safety. Breed neutral laws are favored by all of the organizations of canine-behavior experts in the country, and all oppose breed-specific ones. Other media outlets, including the Kansas City Star and Pittsburgh Gazette have picked up on this trend.
It's a good trend, and one that I expect, and hope will continue. Breed specific laws are unfair, and arbitrary, and do take resources away from focusing on real problem dogs and owners.