ABA Votes to Repeal Breed Discrimination Laws

From North County Gazette.org  August 2012  http://www.northcountrygazette.org/2012/08/06/aba_ban_bsl/


The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates has approved a resolution that urges local governments to focus on deed, not breed when considering dangerous dog laws.

The resolution urges all state, territorial, and local legislative bodies and governmental agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws that ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs, and to repeal any breed discriminatory or breed specific provisionsResolution

The resolution includes an outstanding report which summarizes the current status of breed discriminatory legislation, saying laws that target “pit bulls” are inconsistent with due process because it’s difficult to determine which dogs fit in the category.

And even when laws are more specific in their definitions, it’s difficult to judge a dog from its appearance.

“People love their pets, no matter what their appearance,” said Elise Van Kavago, chair of the Animal Law Committee of the Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Section.  ”This is America. Responsible pet owners should be allowed to own whatever breed they want.”

Breed-discriminatory measures, sometimes referred to as breed-specific measures, distinguish  dogs of one or more specific breeds, along with dogs presumed to mixes of those breeds, as inherently dangerous because of the dog’s physical appearance. Often these provisions will describe the most common physical characteristics of the breed, or they will refer to the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club’s description.

Dogs within the community are judged by these physical characteristics.  If a certain number of features are present in a particular dog, the dog is presumed to be a member of the breed or, in the case of mixed-breed dogs, of that breed’s heritage and is classified as dangerous per se, according to the report.

The consequences of this classification vary greatly. Some laws ban the ownership, keeping or harboring of dogs of certain breeds or appearance, other laws place onerous restrictions on the dogs and their owners.  These restrictions can include requiring sterilization, micro-chipping, prescribed enclosures, muzzling, special leashes, specific collars, detailed signage, training and a minimum age of the person who can walk the dog, the report says.

The dogs affected by these laws have not actually shown dangerous behaviors; the dogs just appear to be of a certain breed or heritage.

Breed-discriminatory laws occasionally are proposed and sometimes passed by local governments. These proposals usually come after a well-publicized and emotional dog bite incident within or near the local community and are best described as “panic policymaking.”

Because these laws are enacted out of emotion, lawmakers often fail to consider the effects of provisions that impact the property rights of responsible dog owners and can involve the seizing and destroying of property (family pets) simply because their dog is of the targeted breed, heritage, or appearance.

Currently 12 states avoid panic policymaking by prohibiting breed discriminatory measures.  Only one state,Ohio, previously defined one or more breeds of dogs as “vicious.”

Last week, the state of Massachusetts banned breed specific legislation.




One thought on “ABA Votes to Repeal Breed Discrimination Laws

  1. Ohio no longer names any breed of dog as vicious. Pit bull was just recently voted to be taken off the list.

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