Parker, Florida Needs an Enforced Leash Law, Not BSL!

After a so-called “pit bull” attack has occurred in a city, citizens and often elected officials alike are quick to knee-jerk and request or even demand a breed ban or some other form of breed-specific legislation (BSL).   For instance, after a dog, Annie, was attacked in her backyard by two so-called “pit bulls” (though “pit bull” is not a breed) in Parker, Florida, Annie’s owners are calling for a “pit bull” ban.   Unfortunately the city may be open to the idea.   But, as ever, we must investigate further and ask: Is the problem in Parker a “pit bull” problem or a free-roaming dog problem?

According to Parker Police Chief Charles Sweatt,

“…dogs are allowed to be off their leashes as long as they are under verbal control of the owners. Changes in the ordinance could require all dogs to be on leashes if they are off their owners property or not in a secured area on the owners property.”

Clearly Parker has a free-roaming dog problem, not a “pit bull” problem.  

Yet, remove the so-called “pit bulls” from the same scenario and insert Labradors and would Parker’s citizens be asking for a Labrador ban?   Yet Labradors, and indeed any dog, can become just as dangerous when left to free roam because they revert back to their pack mentality.   And we know the dogs in question were repeatedly free roaming because they returned several nights later to the same backyard where Annie had been.

As such, Parker needs a new and improved leash law, stepped up Animal Control enforcement, and a well-enforced dangerous dog (owner) law.    And while victims of dog attacks will often call for a ban on the breed of dog (though, again, “pit bull” is not a breed) that attacked them and theirs, they do so only because they are angry, and rightfully so.   But they should know that BSL is ineffective, costly, and impossible to enforce (not to mention unconstitutional) such that the legislation they are asking for won’t keep them or their community safer.   For instance,

*   Those who like to cite Denver’s “pit bull” ban as a supposed success story should look up the 2004 case of Margolius v. The City of Denver wherein Mr. Margolius proved that Denvers own Animal Control officers could not discern what was and was not a so-called pit bull as defined by their own ordinance.   As such, Mr. Margolius 14th amendment due process rights were determined to have been violated and the charges against him were thrown out.   So, how does a community enforce a “pit bull” ban when their own Animal Control officers can’t even tell what a “pit bull” is as defined by their own law???

*   Toledo, Ohios BSL was ruled unconstitutional in January 2010 as it went well beyond the purview of state law. (And Toledo replaced their BSL with a dangerous dog law because there were far too many cases of mistaken identity, meaning that just like in Denver, Toledo’s dog warden could not properly discern what was and was not a “pit bull.”)

*   Legislation currently in the Ohio legislature seeks to remove the archaic dangerous dog designation for pit bulls via HB 14, because, as HB 14²s sponsor noted, Ohios BSL discriminates against pit bulls and their owners. (Weve seen this countless times: BSL that is passed because its proponents were really racist and classist.   They use the those people terminology to describe minorities who own pit bulls, Rottweilers, etc.; people who they claim must be thugs, drug dealers, or gang bangers simply because they own a certain type of dog.   BSL is one of the last accepted forms of discrimination in the U.S. because its one of the few remaining ways to discriminate against African-Americans and Latinos without being fingered as a racist.)

*   Rockville Centre, New York repealed their BSL July 23, 2010, citing its unconstitutionality.

*   Topeka, Kansas repealed their BSL September 28, 2010, citing its ineffectiveness.

BSL has proven ineffective internationally as well:

*   In May 2010, the Toronto Humane Society released statistics from a survey they conducted which showed that the number of dog bites in Ontario had changed little since Ontarios 2005 ban on pit bull breeds was instituted.

*   Italy and the Netherlands both repealed their BSL within the last couple of years citing its ineffectiveness.

*   It has been widely reported in the BBC that the UKs BSL, which has been instituted since 1991, has been an utter failure as there has been a huge rise in banned fighting dogs.   Efforts are now underway to repeal the UK ban.

These are just a handful of recent examples illustrating that BSL has been a failed policy nationally and worldwide.

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