An ordinance termed "breed-specific legislation" (BSL) that banned further acquisition of Pit Bulls, limited each home to a total of three dogs of any breed, and required registration of Pit Bulls to include photo ID, sounded harsh when it went into effect in Fayette, MO, in February 2009. Now at the three-year mark, a look at the results indicates that passing BSL laws to protect a specific breed can work!
This law allowed any existing pet Pit Bulls to be “grandfathered” if they were registered before the February 17, 2009, deadline.
The new ordinance has some “fairly strong teeth,” reported the Columbia Daily Tribune. For Pit Bull owners, it meant showing proof of $100,000 of liability insurance, muzzling their pets when they are being walked — on a leash no longer than 4 feet — and providing secure confinement for dogs kept outside.
LAW CONTAINS SOME UNIQUE CONCEPTS
The Fayette ordinance requires registration of all Pit Bulls and dogs of any breed which are “grandfathered” in beyond the three-dog limit, along with two photos of each canine.
Carol Leech, Director of Pet Adoption and Welfare Services (PAWS), a State-licensed rescue organization, says that a main impetus for the law was that Code Enforcement Officers were often threatened by Pit Bulls when they were trying to conduct inspections, especially on rental properties. The officers were additionally concerned that often the dogs were not the same ones when they returned to re-inspect. The two photos allow a definite ID of the Pit Bulls and assure that those “grandfathered” are not replaced by different dogs or that they are not just being “rotated.”
Carol Leech said in a phone interview last week that in 2009 and before, the city was experiencing a syndrome she called, “rotating dogs,” meaning that residents of surrounding towns who didn’t want, or couldn’t keep, their Pit Bulls would bring them to Fayette and leave them. In these cases, often the prior dogs would disappear and their whereabouts was unknown. Since passage of the ordinance, this practice seems to have been resolved.
Leech said at the time the ordinance was passed that many nearby communities already did not allow Pit Bulls. “So guess what? We’re the dump-off,” she explained in the Tribune report. There was no indication of whether the dogs were being used for fighting, she said, but the animals were often chained in yards and neglected. Others were not confined and could pose a threat to humans and especially to other animals.
Leech said there were incidents of Pit Bulls attacking other dogs and cats before the ordinance was put in place, but she could only recall one report of a Pit Bull attack on a person.
Violations of the Fayette ordinance carry fines, including at least a $100 fine for someone whose dog “impedes any person” on a public right of way. Any Pit Bull puppies born in Fayette after the ordinance took effect were required to be removed from the city at or soon after eight weeks of age.
The new ordinance was opposed at several City Council meetings by a handful of Pit Bull owners who unsuccessfully tried to stop local officials from passing what they called “breed-specific legislation.” One resident suggested it was “racist and sexist” because it would target young black males with Pit Bulls, said the published report.
However, Carol Leech said that not all Pit Bull owners were opposed to the ordinance. Some believed it would insure better care and more safety for the breed.
BSL IS PROTECTING PEOPLE AND ANIMALS—INCLUDING PIT BULLS
Carol Leech is a member of the Fayette animal ordinance committee, but said, “I wasn’t even the person that came up with the Pit Bull ban.” But, she agrees that there definitely are fewer Pit Bulls since the ordinance and those that are kept in Fayette are receiving care. She also assists a local Pit Bull rescuer who takes in unwanted dogs and finds suitable, responsible homes.
Officials are aware that not all Pit Bulls have been registered, Leech says, but as long as they are not creating complaints or citizen reports, the city is not going door to door to enforce the law. However, if a Pit Bull is roaming or is being neglected or abused, the law will be enforced and it provides a tool to assure compliance.