Dover, Arkansas Moving Forward with “Pit Bull” Ban

By Editor
In Breed-Specific Legislation
Jul 23rd, 2013
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The Dover, Arkansas City Council is moving ahead with their breed-specific ordinance proposal to ban all “breeds” of “pit bull” at their next meeting August 6 at Dover City Hall, 6 p.m.  As noted in a prior post about Dover’s BSL proposal, Dover’s “pit bull” ban would include American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Bull Terriers (which isn’t a breed, at least not according to the AKC who registers them), and American Bulldogs.  Does it not follow that if the ordinance has to define four breeds as if they were one that statistics on “pit bulls” might be massively skewed and therefore meaningless?  In other words, there is no such “breed” as a pit bull” and in fact, the slang term “pit bull” can encompass any number of breeds.  To put that anther way, “pit bull” can be anything they want it to be.

Nor does BSL make the community safer as Dover’s City Councilmen have said:

“I get that it’s a controversial issue,” [Mayor Pat] Johnson said. “But we’ve had a couple of incidents involving pit bulls in the past, and it’s just a matter of time before there is another one. I feel that we’re better off doing something about it now rather than later, because I’d hate for something to happen and then have to deal with it.”

Alderman Roger Lee said he stands against any action which takes freedom away from the people, but at some point, decisions have to be made for the betterment and safety of a community.

“The safety of the people of Dover is my primary concern,” Lee said. “I don’t hold anything against pit bulls or their owners, but the statistics speak for themselves. I feel that by moving forward with this decision that we have to put these rules in place.”

Dover Marshal Rodney Pfeifer said from a security standpoint, pit bulls are one of the biggest issues in his city that needs to be addressed.

“I’m in agreement with the push to ban pit bulls,” Pfiefer said. “It’s not anything against the breed. I don’t have anything personal against them, and in reality, pit bulls do get a lot of bad publicity, but regardless, it is still an issue of public safety.”

Gosh, it’s almost as if someone coached them to keep saying the word “safety” over and over.  First, as already noted, “pit bull” is not a breed, and when you define at least four actual breeds, their mixes, and lookalikes as so-called “pit bulls,” statistics are skewed and therefore completely worthless.  So, yes Mr. Lee, statistics absolutely do lie.

Second, BSL has proven ineffective, unenforceable, and unconstitutional nationwide resulting in its repeal in many areas, which is why it offers nothing but a false sense of security and does not keep communities safer.  For instance, Annapolis, Missouri repealed their breed ban in July 2013 when they saw it was unfairly targeting responsible owners, and Osawatomie, Kansas repealed their two-decades long breed ban on June 5, 2013, after one of their residents proved that a dog the city had deemed a “pit bull” was actually a Boxer mix. 

Likewise, Toledo, Ohio’s BSL was ruled unconstitutional in January 2010 as it went well beyond the purview of state law and violated home-rule doctrine.  Additionally it was determined that Toledo’s Animal Control Officer could not properly identify what was a “pit bull” based on their own ordinance.  The Ohio legislature then went on to remove the archaic dangerous dog designation for “pit bulls” in 2012. 

Also, on March 9, 2011, Midwest City, Oklahoma was ordered to stop enforcing their “pit bull” ban as it was ruled unconstitutional.  Rockville Centre, New York also repealed their BSL July 23, 2010, citing its unconstitutionality, and Topeka, Kansas repealed their BSL September 28, 2010, citing its ineffectiveness.  

These BSL repeals illustrate perfectly how and why BSL doesn’t work: It’s unconstitutional, it’s ineffective, and it’s unjust, seeing as how many Animal Control Officers cannot even tell what is and is not a “pit bull” as defined by their own ordinances.  Indeed, making proper breed determinations is a considerable problem with any breed-specific provision — whether a ban or breed-specific restrictions — particularly with mixed breeds or breeds that have the same appearance as the restricted breeds.  It is difficult even for experts to properly determine breed at times, especially with mixed breeds, which is why such bans/restrictions have been found to be a violation of due process afforded every American under the 14th amendment. 

For example, in the 2004 case of Margolius v. The City of Denver, it was shown that Mr. Margolius’ due process rights were violated when Denver’s own Animal Control Officers could not discern what was and was not a “pit bull” as defined by their own ordinance.  Denver violated dog owners’ due process rights again when The Denver Daily News reported that in January 2011 (and in 2009) Denver’s Animal Control officers could not tell the difference between a Boxer mix and what Denver’s ordinance defined as a “pit bull.”  The findings in these cases are a wake-up call for those who claim that Denver’s “pit bull” ban has been successful.

A well-enforced leash law for all dogs, a non-breed-specific dangerous dog (owner) law which places the responsibility squarely on the owner with escalating fines and penalties, and adequate Animal Control personnel are more than enough to police irresponsible dog owners no matter what the breed.  The Dover, Arkansas City Council will discuss their “pit bull” ban proposal at their next meeting, August 6 at Dover City Hall, 6 p.m.

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One Response to “Dover, Arkansas Moving Forward with “Pit Bull” Ban”

  1. By the way, following is an excerpt from The Denver Daily News article I cited in the above post. The DDN article is no longer available on the Internet:

    http://www.thedenverdailynews.com/article.php?aID=11758

    More innocent dogs targeted?
    Judge rules that city mislabeled another innocent dog as a pit bull
    Peter Marcus, DDN Staff Writer
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Denver animal control officers mislabeled another dog as a pit bull, raising additional questions over the department’s credibility when handling the lives of both the dogs themselves and the families they come from.

    An administrative-law judge this month ruled that animal control officers mislabeled a 10-month-old boxer-mix puppy as a pit bull.

    Despite being identified by three independent animal control officers as being a pit bull, the administrative-law judge heard testimony from experts stating otherwise, and ruled that the animal control officers had mislabeled the dog.

    In Denver, where pit bulls are illegal, mislabeling a dog as a member of the targeted breed can mean death for the dog, or at the very least being banned from the city.

    The incident unraveled on Jan. 3 when Mufasia, the boxer-mix, escaped from his owners’ yard on South Sheridan in south Denver. Mufasia ended up at a nearby school playground where he was playing with children.

    Animal control officers were called about the loose dog, and he was impounded.

    Mufasia was not wearing tags, but his owners, Amee Blauwkamp and Robert Atencio, started calling around to local shelters. None of the shelters seemed to have him, not even the Denver Animal Shelter on Jason Street.

    But to their surprise, when a relative went down to the shelter, Mufasia was in fact there.

    In the 48 hours while Mufasia was at the shelter, he was identified as a pit bull, despite the owners pointing out that when he received his vaccinations, the dog was never identified as a pit bull. Both Blauwkamp and Atencio say they wouldn’t have adopted the dog had it been a pit bull, well aware that the breed is banned in Denver.

    But animal control officials maintained that Mufasia was a pit bull. The owners had two choices: let animal control officers kill the dog, or release him to a friend outside the city. They chose the latter.

    Blauwkamp says she asked animal control officers what her options were, but was never told that there was an appeals process. She found that out after contacting the Wheat Ridge-based Animal Law Center, who ended up representing Blauwkamp and Atencio during the appeals process.

    During the Feb. 2 hearing, testimony was presented by two experts, an American Kennel Club judge and a United Kennel Club judge, who both agreed that Mufasia was not a pit bull. The judge agreed that there was not conclusive evidence suggesting that the dog was a pit bull.

    Blauwkamp and Atencio learned on Friday of the ruling, and Mufasia is now back home in Denver.

    The incident mirrors a situation in 2009 when Denver animal control officers misidentified another boxer-mix, Dexter, as a pit bull, according to the ruling in that case.

    Such misidentifications raise concerns over whether innocent dogs are being killed or banned in Denver…

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