Lansing, Michigan May Consider Breed-Specific Ordinance
**Please contact Lansing, Michigan Mayor Virg Bernero here and the City Council here and politely inform them that breed-specific legislation (BSL), in any form, is ineffective, unenforceable, and unconstitutional.**
According to the Lansing City Pulse:
Mayor Virg Bernero says the city needs to address its “vicious dog” problem… And it looks like the City Council agrees.
“We have a serious problem with vicious dogs,” Bernero told the Council at its meeting Monday night. “We have people in this city living in fear.”
He was telling the Council to get moving on drafting a vicious dog ordinance that would likely involve regulations on securing scary hounds on owners’ property. Details of such an ordinance are scarce. It’ll likely be contentious over whether to go “breed specific.”
Bernero said the “vast majority” of instances when the Lansing Police Department has had to shoot dogs involved a pit bull. “I know some people don’t like it when I say the truth about pit bulls. But they seem to be the ones we have the most problems with,” he said.
However, Bernero recognizes that different communities across the country regulate vicious dogs in various ways. “I leave it to the Council the best way to write the ordinance,” he said.
If Lansing has a free-roaming, “vicious” dog problem, why would it pursue a breed-specific ordinance? All kinds of actual breeds free-roam, so how will BSL help? And I would submit that Lansing does not have a “vicious” dog problem, and certainly not a “pit bull” problem since there is no breed “pit bull”; it looks like Lansing has a free-roaming dog problem resultant of an entrenched gang problem. So, with all due respect, the Mayor’s “truth” about “pit bulls” isn’t truth at all. The truth is, Lansing has a gang problem, and you can’t solve a gang problem by blaming the symptom; you must solve the problem at its source.
Lansing is certainly not the first Michigan city we’ve seen that attempted to address their gang problem via breed-specific legislation. It’s understood that since Lansing is Michigan’s capital it might want to downplay that gangs, or “neighborhood street crews,” are a problem, but you can’t put a Band-Aid in the form of BSL, on the ever-expanding wound that is gang-related crime. As ever, the so-called “pit bull” problem in urban areas isn’t a “pit bull” problem at all. Rather, it’s a symptom of the endemic, urban problem of poverty: Lack of opportunity for jobs (particularly for minorities), i.e. economic decline, which Michigan has in spades. In fact, Michigan was just named one of the 10 most depressing states because:
“Few states have been as battered by the economic downturn as Michigan. With unemployment as high as 20% in some counties, it’s not surprising that residents might be feeling distressed.”
And that 20% is most likely just people filing for unemployment, which may exclude people who have been unemployed for over a year, making that 20% figure look unrealistically low.
If you’re a kid just out of high school, why should you go to college? There are no jobs and no way to pay back your student loans. So, for some faced with the possibility of chronic unemployment, they choose the gang lifestyle instead because it’s more appealing than standing in a line waiting for an unemployment check or lining up for blocks with other applicants all applying for the same few scant jobs.
As many in the dog lobby have advised several cities in Michigan: Take care of your economic problems overarchingly, and, as much as possible, deal with the fallout of economic decline in the meantime. That can mean enticing more businesses to come to Michigan cities with low tax rates and other incentives, while dealing with the symptoms of urban poverty and blight on the back end.
If Lansing has a free-roaming dog problem, then perhaps more temporary Animal Control staff are needed, which would be a lot more economically feasible than enforcing BSL, which, according to the Best Friends calculator would run close to $200,000 annually. The economic downturn, which has hit Michigan hardest, is causing particularly youths and young adults to join gangs (or to use Lansing’s description, “street crews”) which in turn causes them to run drugs, fight dogs, and commit other serious crimes. Take care of these problems by encouraging job growth and after-school programs that keep kids away from gangs and drugs, and you’ll take care of your free-roaming dog problem. Yes, admittedly, easier said than done, but again, you can’t point a finger at the symptom as if it’s the cause; you must address the problem at its source.