In the last decade, we’ve seen a lot of corruption in this country. We’ve seen corrupt and immoral politicians on the federal, state, and municipal levels; people who believe they don’t have to follow the same laws they pass in a true do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do fashion. Is that what’s happening in Garland, Texas with the recent “pit bull” fencing requirements just issued?
If y’all don’t know, Texas has a statewide prohibition of breed-specific legislation (BSL), which means Garland’s new “pit bull” fencing “directive” is illegal:
§ 822.047. LOCAL REGULATION OF DANGEROUS DOGS. A county or municipality may place additional requirements or restrictions on dangerous dogs if the requirements or restrictions:
(1) are not specific to one breed or several breeds of dogs; and
(2) are more stringent than restrictions provided by this subchapter.
Added by Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 916, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1991. (http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/docs/HS/content/htm/hs.010.00.000822.00.htm#822.047.00)
But maybe fencing isn’t really what Garland is after. This blogger notes,
Owners who register their dogs with the city prior to August 1, 2010 and maintain compliance with all applicable Animal Service Ordinances will be exempted from the ordinance.
So in other words, existing “pit bull” owners must register with Big Brother and Garland will forget this whole mess about expensive fencing requirements. I see. So, Garland’s directive is meant to be duress, or a bait-and-switch, with their real agenda appearing to be that they want to track “pit bull” owners. That’s sure to catch those dog fighters who keep their dogs chained up in the basement; you know those poor dogs that never see the light of day? Criminal dog fighters are certain to be the first ones to comply, right?
Yes, Texas has had a problem with free-roaming dogs in years past. (Depending on who you ask, feral dogs running around are either as a result of criminal dog fighters letting their dogs go after losing fights, or animal rights groups who dump packs of feral dogs in target areas in hopes of passing onerous anti-animal legislation like breed bans. Why would animal rightists do this you ask? Because of a thing called “nativism,” which you can read about here.) Notice I said free-roaming dogs and not “pit bulls,” though the Texas media has done their darnedest to label every attacking dog a “pit bull.”
Garland’s own “directive” claims that,
Pit bull dogs or crossbreeds thereof have been responsible for the most dog bites since statistics have been kept (2004). Additionally, 27% of the dogs caught while running at large are pit bull dogs.
Yes, I suppose if you label a majority of medium- or large-breed dogs and their mixes as “pit bulls” then those statistics would appear to be true. We once took a gander at the dogs available for adoption from BARC, the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care in Houston, and discovered that almost all their mixes were labeled “pit bull” mixes, even though most of the dogs looked like Labrador or Shepherd mixes. (Those 27% of dogs mentioned by Garland’s own “directive,” also happen to be free-roaming, which increases the likelihood that they’ll bite because left to their own devices, dogs can start to run in packs and become very territorial.) So, as we ask almost every day now on this blog, what is a “pit bull” exactly? Because according to BARC, it appeared to be a majority of their mixed breeds. But what is a “pit bull” according to Garland?
According to this blogger, Garland defines “pit bull” as “American Staffordshire Terriers, pit bull dogs, American Bull Dogs, or crossbreeds thereof.” Does it not follow that if Garland defines “pit bull” as at least three breeds and their mixes that statistics on “pit bulls” might be greatly skewed which would negate their own pretense for “pit bull” fencing requirements in the first place??? And by the way, “pit bull dog” is not a breed. Do they mean American Pit Bull Terriers or any bulldog or what? So, right off the bat, folks in Garland wouldn’t know how to comply with this vague “directive” to begin with. And “crossbreeds thereof”? Well how do you know for sure what you’ve got? If you’re anything like us, all your dogs come from the shelter and you don’t know for sure what they are. Again, according to this blogger, Garland apparently has a “fix” for that:
City Animal Service Officers will be given the job of determining which dogs are “obviously pit bull dogs or crossbreeds thereof.” Marginal cases will be referred to the Animal Services Manager and/or City Veterinarian for a final determination.
So never fear Garland, your dog’s breed will be determined by an Animal Services officer, or if s/he is stumped, the manager of Animal Services or a veterinarian, all of whom have zero training in breed determination.
I hate to break it to folks, but even if one had training in breed determination, without knowing the lineage of the dog — i.e. its dam or sire via papers, registration, or the like — there is really no definitive way to prove breed. And despite what the public is led to believe, DNA tests for canine breed determination are spotty at best. That, and Animal Control officers have demonstrated in court that they can’t discern what is and what is not a “pit bull” as defined by their city’s own ordinances, so what Garland defines as proper breed determination will likely be anything but.
This blogger concludes that the only option may be to relinquish one’s dog(s):
Relinquishing the dog may seem like the only alternative to residents who do not have the means to build a new fence or are renting. Major fencing projects require not only money and labor, but surveys, city building permits, and in some cases homeowner association approvals.
Perhaps some will simply just not follow Garland’s “directive.” They may be thinking “Garland is breaking state law by forcing ‘pit bull’ owners to comply with an illegal directive, so why should I have to comply?”
However, as this blogger notes,
Neither the “directive” nor the city code available online spells out what these enforcement steps will be. What are the consequences? Fines? Seizure of the dog?…This kind of law (which is not a law — it’s a directive) gives wide latitude to the city to simply tell someone, “Hand over the dog and we won’t make you get a new fence.”
I guess in Garland’s eyes they’re not violating the state prohibition of BSL since the breed-specific fencing requirement is a “directive” instead of a law. They’re wrong of course. BSL is still BSL and it’s still illegal per Texas state law. But does that “directive” have legal consequences for non-compliance? Yes, what happens if you don’t put up a fence or don’t register your “pit bull” with the City of Garland? Perhaps they’re hoping their citizens comply and don’t ask that question since there has apparently been made no provisions for enforcement of this “directive.” It’s still duress though, directive or not. The city is saying register your “pit bull(s)” with us or put up this really expensive fence. And since the punishment for non-compliance is not defined, Garland’s “pit bull” owners are left to fear the worst. But then, that’s how duress works; it’s compliance achieved through fear.
Perhaps Garland’s gutsier citizens will simply ignore the “directive” which goes into effect August 10, 2010. Perhaps they’re wondering why arrogant elected representatives should be allowed to defy both their citizens’ rights and state law? And really, is that how it’s going to be now? Do those in power have as one of their political perks the ability to just cherry pick which laws they’ll obey, which laws their citizens will obey, and rule as authoritarians? And here we might do well to define just exactly what is an authoritarian form of government, you know, so the citizens of Garland will know it, now that they see it:
authoritarian: “adjective- of or pertaining to a governmental or political system, principle, or practice in which individual freedom is held as completely subordinate to the power or authority of the state [meaning, the body politic as organized for civil rule and government], centered either in one person or a small group that is not constitutionally accountable to the people.
And speaking of the Constitution, the 10th amendment states:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Do you see municipal powers in there anywhere? Because what I see in there is what’s called “states rights,” and beyond that individual freedom reserved for the people. So how can a municipality pass a “directive” which is in direct defiance of state law?
Best as I can tell, Garland hasn’t a leg to stand on. But then, it looks like they already know that, because if they had any kind of power to enforce their “directive,” they would have spelled out consequences for non-compliance to their “directive” and they have conspicuously failed to do so.