***The Watertown Public Safety and Welfare Committee will hold a meeting to discuss their breed-specific ordinance proposal tonight, Wednesday, July 17, 2013, starting at 5 p.m. in room 8 in the municipal building, 106 Jones St. (The breed-specific ordinance proposal will be discussed at 6 p.m.)
As we discussed in our post from February, Watertown’s ordinance proposal was and is very restrictive. Watertown’s latest proposal would limit Watertown residents to two so-called “pit bulls,” which is not a breed, or other dogs deemed “dangerous,” and prohibit “pit bulls” in multi-family dwellings. As of yet, there is still no grandfather clause (although what they call a “grandfather clause” isn’t a grandfather clause either) and no “grandfather clause” is even being drafted at this time.
The new ordinance would create four classes of dogs: 1) A dog at-large, 2) A high-risk dog, which is defined as all pit bull breeds and mixes (and again, “pit bull” is not a breed), 3) A vicious dog (dogs found to have a tendency to attack, causing injury to a person or another domestic animal.), 4) A prohibited dangerous dog (a dog that has inflicted substantial bodily harm or caused the death of a person, is rabid, a wild animal hybrid or dog trained for dog fighting.)
While the ordinance does define what they call “pit bull breeds” as American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers or any dog displaying a majority of physical traits of one or more of those breeds, are these the breeds responsible for being at-large or posing a threat in Watertown? Since the ordinance uses the vague definition “any dog displaying a majority of physical traits of one or more of those breeds” which has historically been ruled unconstitutionally vague, do Watertown officials even know if the dogs they’ve been seeing are the breeds they’ve listed? ACOs and eyewitnesses are notoriously bad at making breed determinations. Plus, does it not follow that if you lump that many breeds, their mixes, and lookalikes into one category and define them as if they were one breed that statistics on so-called “pit bulls” might be massively skewed and therefore worthless? And doesn’t the example of Michael Vick’s former fighting dogs — all but one of which passed their temperament tests and went on to be fostered and adopted back out — illustrate in a big way that most dogs trained to fight are NOT vicious?
Oh but not to worry Watertown, because the same council who doesn’t understand dogs or even that they’re using worthless statistics to pass an unconstitutional piece of legislation, have a built-in appeals process in the ordinance for owners whose dogs have been deemed vicious. That’s right, you get to appeal the unconstitutional violation of your property (your dog) most likely to the very group of people who sought to take them away from you in the first place. They call this due process, but it’s really not.
Additionally, if the ordinance passes as-is, owners of so-called “pit bulls” (and those dogs deemed vicious) would be required to abide by several restrictions including:
1) When off the owner’s property, “pit bull” dogs and dogs deemed vicious must be constricted to a leash not longer than 4 feet long and the dog walker must be 16 years or older and must possess the physical strength to control the dog. (So now, do dog walkers have to take some nanny-state physical fitness test to know whether they can walk their own dog too?)
2) So-called “pit bull” dogs and those deemed vicious must be confined indoors or in a securely enclosed pen or kennel etc. on the owner’s property. (Yes, and this type of confinement is animal cruelty and likely to bring about the very behavior this onerous ordinance is seeking to curb.)
3) Warning signs must be placed on the property of any home or property that owns a “pit bull” or vicious dog.
4) All “pit bull” dogs or dogs deemed vicious must be spayed or neutered after they are 5 months or older.
5) Owners must register so-called “pit bull” dogs or vicious dogs on or before Sept. 1, 2013, and yearly thereafter. Owners must offer proof of a liability insurance policy of at least $100,000, provide a colored picture of the dog, proof of alteration, and pay a $25 registration fee.
And, as already noted, no one may own or keep more than two “pit bull” dogs or dogs deemed vicious, nor are they allowed in any multi-family building.
I call this ordinance proposal onerous because we have seen it so many times in the last decade and it has always come from a radical animal rightist source. Often when we in the dog lobby write these small towns and tell them these types of ordinance proposals are unconstitutional and even cruel to animals, they tell us that if we don’t live in their towns, then our opinions don’t matter. Yet they entertain radical animal rightists and their legislation; radical animal rightists who are most definitely an outside source and one hell-bent on eradicating all domestic animal ownership at that! Indeed, this ordinance isn’t about public safety; it’s about a radical animal rights domestic pet death crusade which the Watertown City Council has thus far fallen for hook, line, and sinker. Yes, that’s right: Dogbite.org, Kory Nelson, and other radical animal rightist crusaders are out to kill your pets. Do you want to see what BSL will bring to your quiet little Wisconsin town? Here it is, in full color: