Canton, Michigan Couple Seek Repeal of Vicious Dog Label for Pit Bulls

Jessica and Marcin Kowalewski have begun lobbying local officials in Canton, Michigan to repeal a provision in Canton’s vicious dog ordinance that declares so-called pit bulls vicious.   While the Kowalewskis argue that Canton’s breed-specific law (BSL) is unfair because their bulldog mix Loki is obedience trained, loves children and cats, and is well-behaved on neighborhood walks, shouldn’t the argument also be that there is no proof that any one breed is inherently vicious?  

In fact, breed-specific vicious dog laws often appear to make what its proposers call a “compromise” by simply declaring so-called pit bulls presumptively vicious, while still allowing the dogs’ owners to keep their dogs if they jump through all kinds of hoops.   But this kind of law puts the onus on blameless dog owners who, like the Kowalewskis, were already abiding by the law.   Meanwhile, if one dog, like Loki, defined as a “pit bull” (whatever that is this week), is well-behaved, then the argument that all pit bulls are inherently vicious goes right out the window.   In other words, if there are well-behaved pit bulls, then there must be an acknowledgement that these breeds they call pit bulls are not inherently vicious.  

For pit bull owners to have to go to unreasonable lengths to prove that their dogs are well-behaved — i.e. jumping through far more hoops than your average dog owner would ever be required to — even as science has not proven there is any such thing as an inherently vicious dog breed, is to unconstitutionally put the burden of proof on the wrong parties.   The burden of proof should be on the city, county, or state who endeavors to pass a breed-specific law under the presumption that so-called pit bulls are innately vicious.   If the burden of proof fell to those passing BSL instead of those oppressed by BSL, no BSL could stand since no city, county, or state could prove that the dogs they call pit bulls are inherently vicious.

So maybe the better tack to take against those pushing BSL or trying to maintain BSL is that they haven’t proven that 1) these breeds are inherently vicious, 2) that BSL works (and there’s ample evidence now that it doesn’t), and 3) that, if Denver is any proof, cities with BSL can’t even properly discern what a pit bull is as defined by their own ordinances.  

But perhaps I’m just preaching to the choir here since Canton Township Supervisor Phil LaJoy has already agreed to look into Canton’s breed-specific ordinance and has even asked Cantons City Attorney, Kristin Kolb, to review the ordinance language for possible changes.   Likewise, the Kowalewskis intend to directly lobby the Canton Township Board of Trustees to remove the breed-specific portion of Canton’s vicious dog ordinance at the Dec. 10, 2013 Board of Trustees meeting.   We wish them the best of luck.


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