Claiming a need for more public input, the Magnolia, Arkansas City Council has tabled a breed-specific legislation (BSL) ordinance proposal that would prohibit convicted felons from owning the dogs they call “pit bulls.”
The ordinance proposal, which would amend existing Magnolia Code*, states:
Any person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of the United States, of the state of Arkansas, or any other state, government, or country, is prohibited from owning, purchasing, receiving, harboring, keeping, or being in possession of or having under his or her custody or control a dog that poses a danger to the public’s health, safety or welfare, or any dog defined as vicious by Section 4-29, including but not limited to pit bulls. A person who violates this ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of not less than $500. A convicted felon under this article shall not include felons whose convictions were set aside.
The problem with this kind of legislation, besides the fact that someone who breaks the law and does their time should not ongoingly be treated like a criminal since that is a recipe for making a recidivist, is that it is based on an erroneous foundation: that so-called “pit bulls,” which isn’t even a breed mind you, are inherently vicious.
There is no scientific proof that what they call a “pit bull” is inherently dangerous. And, precisely because the definition of “pit bull” changes so frequently, people don’t even know how to abide by breed-specific laws.
In fact, Councilwoman Margie Russ noted,
I do know theres a dog problem. I dont know if its bulldogs, but there are a lot of dogs that are vicious around my house that are being turned loose at night. Theyre not really bulldogs, but there are some big, bad dogs and Im afraid to go out at night . . .
So, the dogs the council is aiming their breed-specific legislation at aren’t even what they define as “pit bulls”! If that’s the case, then not only should the council table the ordinance prohibiting felons from owning so-called “pit bulls,” they should abolish their breed-specific ordinance altogether.
Mayor Parnell Vann, who introduced the ordinance proposal prohibiting felons from owning “pit bulls” and other “vicious” dogs, acknowledged that Magnolia’s existing breed-specific law isn’t working:
We have repeat offenders that (animal control officer David Cushman) has in court that he cites for not upholding the city ordinance we currently have. This is a great breed of dog, but its in the hands of the wrong people . . .
So Mayor Vann acknowledges that the “breed” is not the problem, it’s the owners, and yet he wants to pass more BSL anyway? Does this make any sort of sense?
Your breed-specific ordinance is already a failed policy Magnolia. It’s time to look at legislation that will actually be effective — like a dangerous dog (owner) law — instead of legislation that, as the mayor himself admits, isn’t working and simply serves to punish the law-abiding.
Councilman James Moore, who, by employing simple logic, has opposed Mayor Vann’s ordinance proposal, said,
“I not only think that this is profiling the ex-con, but it is also profiling the owners of pit bulls . . . I truly feel this is unfair.”
It’s not only unfair, it’s unjust and unconstitutional. Councilman Moore added,
We do have a problem, but I dont think were addressing the problem the right way. Were punishing the dog and the good dog owner, Moore said.
I would also add that simply because Magnolia’s section 4-29 code* pertaining to “vicious” dogs, including so-called “pit bulls,” hasn’t been legally challenged yet doesn’t make it lawful or constitutional. In fact, Arkansas has most likely gotten away with passing so much BSL not because it’s constitutional, but because nobody is challenging its unconstitutionality.
Translation? Folks in Arkansas may not have the income enough to challenge BSL and whoever is pushing BSL statewide, most likely a radical animal rights group and/or their proxy, knows that.
*It’s interesting that the city of Magnolia is citing their own code in the local newspaper and even on their own city website, yet when I tried to find their code and look through it, it does not appear to be on their city site or anywhere else for that matter. How can citizens of Magnolia abide by the law when they don’t even have access to it?!