Miami-Dade (FL) is once again planning to discuss repealing the city's 27 year old ban on 'pit bull' type dogs. And the repeal needs to happen in Miami because of shifting attitudes regarding 'pit bull' like dogs, because the original law was an act of panic policy-making, and because the city of Miami cannot legally enforce its law.
The ban, passed in 1989 as an act of panic policy making that was based on a a lot of scientifically inaccurate information. The law has been under constant scrutiny over the past decade.
In 2012, the state of Florida threatened to force Miami-Dade to repeal its breed-specific law. Florida is one of 20 states that now prohibit laws discriminating against certain breeds but the Miami-Dade law predates the Florida preemption law and was allowed to remain. In a bit of a compromise, Miami decided to put the repeal up to its voters if the state would back off of their forced repeal.
The repeal lost badly in the public -- but that shouldn't have been a huge surprise. The county has spent the last 25 years perpetuating the myth that pit bulls were aggressive and needed to be banned and left advocates just 3 months to put together an educational message that would offset 25 years of bad PR.
Interestingly, the educational messaging appeared to have a solid impact - and included the support of the repeal by the Miami Herald. On election day - 42% of the county's residents voted for a repeal. Unfortunately, nearly 60% of the city's residents voted in absentee or early voting -- and of those early ballots (which were mailed in before the bulk of the educational campaign had a chance to take hold), only 31% of early voters voted for the repeal.
So the good news was, that the educational efforts had a major impact on how people perceived pit bulls -- an effort that has continued for the past 4 years. Public perception is indeed changing....and rapidly.
But maybe the most important part of the need for Miami-Dade to repeal its breed ban is because the courts have ruled that the city can't enforce it.
In 20120, the Circuit Court in Miami Dade ruled in the case of Cardelle v. Miami Dade Code Enforcement that the way the county was enforcing the law violated due process. One of the key findings in the case was that the county defined a pit bull based on appearance and this is "subjective criteria and there is little or no peer review" It also noted that Animal Control Officers could not be assumed experts in breed identification.
Officer Casadevall freely admited that he merely performs the inspections and does nothing to gather data, perform quality control and validate existing data. He offered nothing in the way of error checking and peer reviews of his work...there are no procedures in place to verify his findings and validate his previous opinions as to whether he correctly identified pit bulls, the mere quantity of his inspections does not render his opinion reliable." (Emphasis mine)
There are a couple of other key components of violation of due process found in the ruling -- including a ruling that officers were relying on a "fear of future harm" that was impermissible in court.
So once again, Miami-Dade is looking at the possibility of removing its archaic breed ban. Breed discriminatory laws are opposed by every mainstream organization with expertise in animal behavior, and the Miami law has been deemed completely unenforceable because of breed identification issues violate due process.
The first meeting to discuss the repeal is this coming WEDNESDAY - October 5th at 9:30 am. The group Miami Coalition Against Breed-Specific Legislation has asked for experts around the country to write their commissioners in support of this repeal. Here is the contact information for the Commissioners:
District 1: Barbara Jordan - District1@miamidade.gov
District 2: Jean Monestime - District2@miamidade.gov
District 3: Audrey Edmonson - District3@miamidade.gov
District 4: Sally Heyman - District4@miamidade.gov
District 5: Bruno Bareiro - District5@miamidade.gov (M.r Barreiro is the sponsor for this initiative so be sure to thank him).
District 6: Rebeca Sosa - District6@miamidade.gov
District 7: Xavier Suarez - District7@miamidade.gov
District 8: Daniella Levine Cava - firstname.lastname@example.org
District 9: Dennis Moss - DennisMoss@miamidade.gov
District 10: Javier Souto - District10@miamidade.gov
District 11: Juan Zapata - Zapata@miamidade.gov
District 12: Jose "Pepe" Diaz - District12@miamidade.gov
District 13: Estaban Bovo, Jr - District13@miamidade.gov
Mayor - Carlos Gimenez - Mayor@miamidade.gov