Ripon, WI: BSL Remains Unchanged for Now

As we posted back in June, the Ripon, Wisconsin Common Council has been mulling additions to their existing breed-specific legislation (BSL) and decided on Monday, July 22, 2013, to leave their existing breed-specific ordinance untouched . . . for now.   However, Ald. Annette Klein encouraged the council to increase the insurance policy requirement from $100,000 to $250,000 for “pit bull” owners, citing other Wisconsin cities that had required “pit bull” owners to have liability insurance in the amount of $1 million.   Ultimately, the council chose to keep the $100,000 insurance policy requirement “as is” for the time being.

While we are of course glad to see that Ripon did not add on to its existing BSL, it should be noted that the problem with liability insurance policies for so-called “pit bulls” is that they are often hard to come by, and they are even harder to come by in larger dollar amounts.   Insurance companies, with the exception of State Farm, tend to subscribe to the same societal prejudice about certain dog breeds and often do not offer liability insurance for owners of certain breeds.  

Indeed, because liability insurance is so hard to find for certain breeds and tends to be expensive — especially with a policy above $100,000 — liability insurance requirements can act as a back-door ban. To put that another way, what does a responsible owner of a so-called “pit bull” do when they either can’t find a company that will offer them a policy because of prejudice over the “breed” of dog they own, or the policy in the required amount is astronomically expensive?   The owner then has only a few choices: Move, re-home the dog (which can mean needlessly giving up a perfectly loved pet to an already-overburdened local shelter where s/he will most likely be euthanized), or ignore the law.  

Instead of breed-specific legislation, which has proven worldwide to be ineffective, perhaps its time to look at what has historically worked: A dangerous dog (owner) law that puts the onus squarely on irresponsible dog owners with escalating fines and penalties, as well as adequate Animal Control personnel to enforce it.  

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