Less than Bans, Still Discrimination

September 17, 2013  

contest runner up 1 Not all discriminatory laws against pit bull type dogs are outright bans.  Laws requiring insurance policies,[1] muzzling, containment or other restrictions on pit bull type dogs are quite common.  These laws typically classify pit bull type dogs as vicious or dangerous (regardless of their behavior), with the restrictions then applying to all vicious and/or dangerous dogs.  Though not an outright ban on the breed, these discriminatory policies still place an undue burden on responsible owners.  They also waste valuable animal control resources enforcing ineffective laws while distracting the focus from actual animal control issues like roaming dogs, permanently chained dogs, or abused and neglected dogs.

North Salt Lake, Utah offers a good example.  City Code 5-4-9 defines vicious dogs, in part, as “Certain breeds of dogs which by their unique hereditary characteristics, owner, training and instruction, or mistreatment, have a propensity to be vicious.” Among these breeds, they include the Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Pit Bull Terrier.  Most interesting about this piece of legislation is that it recognizes that owners, training, or mistreatment contribute to certain behaviors, yet it still relies on breed labels for the vicious classification.  The Code then imposes requirements for licensing, fencing, leashing, and muzzling, along with a $100,000 personal liability insurance policy.

Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in North Carolina to regulate ownership of “aggressive” dogs breeds.  The bill imposed somewhat less common restrictions, but first defined “dangerous dog breed” as “Pit bull, including the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed, American Staffordshire Terrier breed, and American Pit Bull Terrier breed; Rottweiler; Mastiff; Chow; and Perro de Presa Canario.”  This bill required owners of vicious dogs to submit to a criminal background check, attend an education course about breed temperament, and apply for a special insurance permit for “aggressive” dog breeds.  The bill received much resistance from advocates all around the country, who ultimately prevailed.  “I didn’t really expect it to go anywhere here.  But it really did go a whole lot of places on the outside,” said Representative Moore, who introduced the bill.[2]

Des Moines, Iowa also imposes restrictions on pit bull type dog guardians. Section 18-41 of the City Code defines vicious dog as Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or any dog which has the “appearance and characteristics of being predominately one of these breeds.”  Guardians of these dogs must apply for an annual license, provide proof of $100,000 liability insurance, keep their dogs inside a home or, if outside, the dog must be in a kennel or pen with 6 foot walls, securely locked, or the dog must be on a leash held by a person (not attached to an inanimate object) at least 18 years old.

Luckily, Des Moines has impressive advocates who are working to effect positive change for pit bull type dogs from the ground up.  If you missed Stephanie Filer’s guest post on the Beyond Breed website earlier this summer, it’s definitely worth a read.  Ms. Filer, Manager of Special Gifts and Partnerships for the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, describes how change happens: one person, one situation at a time.  She sets a great example for the importance of starting a dialogue, not making assumptions, and working together with the community for the benefit of all, human and canine.  You should also check out Ms. Filer’s interview on Pit Bulletin Legal News Network here to find out more about the Animal Rescue League’s work to show Iowans that pit bull type dogs are… just dogs.



[1] Insurance companies are increasingly denying policies to people who own specific breeds of dogs, particular pit bull type dogs.  Two states, Michigan and Pennsylvania, have enacted legislation prohibiting breed discrimination by insurance companies.  Other states have attempted to pass such laws with little success.  This is one area where advocates can really make a difference.

[2] Blythe, Anne.  “Pit bull defenders bit back at NC bill that would require background checks for new owners.” April 19, 2013. http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/04/19/2837385/pit-bull-defenders-bite-back-at.html

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Comments

6 Responses to “Less than Bans, Still Discrimination”
  1. Giving a presentation on BSL at our local Pet Expo in October…this is exactly the information I was looking for to include. Thanks!

  2. Jim says:

    I had to take out a $100,000 Liability Rider on my homeowners insurance for my most lovable Pit Bull, Maxine.
    I’m pretty sure that will cover all the soap needed for clean-up from her licks and kisses to everyone!
    EDUCATE – DON’T DISCRIMINATE!

    • Terri says:

      We have plenty of roadblocks to ownership in Lorain, Ohio. So many fly under the radar because we don’t have an animal control officer and the police have better things to do than be babysitters. I wish someone would bring the fight here, but owners here are afraid of putting a virtual target on their pets by agitating for change. A miserable Catch 22…nothing will change unless we can change it, yet the attempt could very well penalize the owners.

  3. Terri says:

    We have plenty of roadblocks to ownership in Lorain, Ohio. So many fly under the radar because we don’t have an animal control officer and the police have better things to do than be babysitters. I wish someone would bring the fight here, but owners here are afraid of putting a virtual target on their pets by agitating for change. A miserable Catch 22…nothing will change unless we can change it, yet the attempt could very well penalize the owners.

  4. Riverside, CA just passed a law stating that Pit Bull Type Dogs must be spayed or neutered. This was in response to yet another incident where an irresponsible pet parent didn’t supervise a child playing with family dogs that were not well socialized. I think all dogs should be spayed or neutered with few exceptions that should be very expensive exceptions. Breeders and people who have show dogs should have to pay richly to have unaltered dogs. But laws that single out Pibby-type dogs are bad and wrong and furthermore do not work.

Comments