February has been a month of victories for Pit Bulls and their pet parents across the country. Attempts to enforce breed-specific legislation (BSL) have been rejected in Florida and Maryland, while Connecticut and New Mexico are considering new laws that would ban BSL in those states.
On the other hand, Rhode Island is considering a new law with strict regulations for Pit Bulls. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and other animal groups oppose the bill.
Currently 13 U.S. states do not allow BSL, including breed bans, because it has not proven to increase public safety and is very expensive to enforce. Breed-neutral dangerous dog laws, which include all breeds of dogs, have been more effective.
Pit Bull Ban Proposal Withdrawn in Florida’s Broward County
Thanks to the outcry from hundreds of Pit Bull advocates, County Commissioner Barbara Sharief of Broward County, Fla., decided this week to at least temporarily withdraw her proposal for the state to allow local governments to decide whether Pit Bulls should be banned.
On Tuesday, there was a packed house at a meeting to discuss the proposed ban. Many opponents gathered in front of the Governmental Center with signs saying “Don’t Bully Pit Bulls” and “Don’t Kill My Best Friend,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. Hundreds more sent emails to the commission, emphasizing that bad owners, not bad dogs, are the issue.
Sharief wanted a ban because she was worried about “unprovoked” attacks by Pit Bulls on people and other dogs. However, Marni Bellavia, who tests the temperaments of shelter dogs for the Humane Society of Broward County, argued that any dog can bite.
“We are against discriminating against any one breed,” she said at Tuesday’s meeting. “At the end of the day, it’s discrimination any way you slice it.”
Florida law does not currently allow cities or counties to ban breeds. However, Miami-Dade County’s Pit Bull ban of 24 years predates this law. Voters decided to keep the ban last year, although some believe they were misled by confusing wording on the ballot.
Despite the overwhelming opposition to her proposal, Sharief told CBS Miami she plans to revise it and try again to get it passed.
Maryland’s House of Delegates Says Pit Bulls Aren’t ‘Inherently Dangerous’
In what the Washington Post called “a small measure of victory to Pit Bull owners,” last week the Maryland House of Delegates voted unanimously to reverse a controversial 2011 state Court of Appeals ruling that labeled all Pit Bulls as being “inherently dangerous.”
That ruling also made Pit Bull pet parents and “third parties,” including their landlords, automatically liable if their dog bit someone. Because of this, many pet parents had to consider giving up their beloved dogs to avoid being evicted.
Instead, the new bill’s wording has been revised so it’s not breed specific. It also limits third-party liability, allows pet parents to prove their dog showed no prior violent behavior and allows for defense of the dog’s behavior.
“It’s not singling out any specific type of dog, and we think it’s a good bill for dog bite victims, for pet owners, for third parties such as landlords, veterinary clinics, etc.,” Tina Regester, of the Maryland SPCA, told CBS Baltimore.
The revised bill now goes to the Maryland Senate, where it is expected to pass.
Connecticut Considers Abolishing Breed-Specific Legislation
Two bills have been proposed in the Connecticut legislature that would outlaw breed-specific legislation in that state. HB 5975 would allow municipalities to adopt breed-neutral dangerous dog ordinances, while the similar HB 6311 would prohibit municipalities from adopting breed-specific dangerous dog ordinances.
The bills were introduced by Rep. Diane Urbin and referred to the Joint Committee on Planning and Development, which voted unanimously in favor of HB 6311 on Feb. 13.
A public hearing on the bill was held in Hartford, Conn., on Feb. 20. The bill will next go to the state House and Senate.
New Mexico House Bans Breed Bans
On Feb. 18, the New Mexico House voted 48-14 to ban cities and counties from passing breed-specific laws.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Yvette Herrell, who said she believes the deed, rather than the breed, should be blamed.
“If we start regulating or singling out breeds of dogs, then I believe that would start a domino effect and we’d start seeing other breeds of dogs added to the list,” she told KRQE.
Currently two New Mexico towns enforce breed-specific legislation. Pit Bulls have been banned in Tijeras since the 1980s. In Elephant Butte, owners of Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and German Shepherds are required to register their dogs with the city.
The new bill does not apply to home-rule municipalities in New Mexico – 11 cities that include the state’s largest: Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe.
Rhode Island Representative Wants Pit Bulls Kept Indoors, Penned or Muzzled
In a major step backward for eliminating breed-specific legislation, two bills have been introduced in Rhode Island that would strictly regulate Pit Bulls.
H5287 and S178, introduced by Sen. Christopher Ottiano, would require all Pit Bulls in the state to be either kept indoors, in a pen or wearing a muzzle at all times. They could not be walked within 100 feet of a school.
“This was destined to never go anywhere, other than spur discussion,” Ottiano told the Warwick Beacon.
Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi told the Beacon he’d received “more comments, more emails and more constituent requests on Pit Bill legislation than any other legislation in the entire General Assembly this year, and that includes marriage equality and binding arbitration.” He said the majority opposed the legislation.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is also against H5287 and S178. According to WPRI, the AKC “supports laws that establish a fair process by which specific dogs are classified as ‘dangerous’ based on actions, but not legislation targeting a specific breed or classes of dogs.”
Ottiano told the Beacon that after he spoke to various animal advocacy groups, he changed his mind about the effectiveness of BSL. However, he still has an issue with Pit Bulls and said there needs to be a “uniform blanket legislation across the state.”
PHOTOS: Our i Love Pit Bulls photo contest winners Leah, Dexter and Butch