On February 26, 2015, Madelyn Wissell Buchda filed a federal lawsuit against the Village of Fall River, Wisconsin, in an attempt to have code restrictions on keeping pit bulls within the village ruled unconstitutional in federal court, reports Courthouse News Service.
The ordinance prohibits pit bull dogs from being owned or maintained in the village.
Buchda states that two dogs, Thor and Diesel, have lived with her in Fall River since 2011. The complaint contends that, since she rescued Thor from a "backyard breeder" and Diesel from a family that could not afford to surrender the dog to a shelter, there is no way to determine their breed with certainty. However, she describes them as “mostly bulldog-boxer mixes.”
Buchda’s complaint states that she received two citations on December 13, 2013, for violating the village's ordinance, and that village officials verbally ordered her to remove Thor and Diesel from Fall River. Claiming she was "fearful of what the village might do to Thor and Diesel," Buchda says she brought the dogs to a foster home outside the village's jurisdiction.
According to Courthouse News, the complaint states that "the language of the ordinance made it clear that there was no way for an owner to determine whether his or her dog was banned, because it had two definitions of pit bulls, one requiring the appearance or characteristics of being predominantly three named breeds (Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, and American pit bull terrier), and another which stated that a dog would be banned if it was 'or any combination of those breeds.'"
The lawsuit seeks determination that the wording of the ordinance implicates dogs that are just 1 percent pit bill, and thus makes the breed-specific legislation unconstitutional.
The complaint describes Thor and Diesel as being considered sentient personalities and immediate family members and states that neither has any history of biting a person or animal and they are not aggressive.
Change.org shows that Maddie Buchda started a petition in December 2013 asking for signatures to help Diesel and Thor return to their home by the holidays, explaining that the two dogs had to be relocated from the Village of Fall River solely on the basis of their appearance.
Bless the Bullys provides the following wording of Section 7-1-9 of the Village of Fall River Code:
"(a) It shall be unlawful to keep, harbor, own or in any way possess within the corporate limits of the Village of Fall River...
"(3) Any pit bull dog provided that pit bull dogs registered with the Village on the day this Section becomes effective may be kept within the Village subject to the standards and requirements set forth in Subsection (b) of this Section.
"The requirements under the code include the dog wearing a leash and muzzle when not confined; outdoor and indoor confinement requirements; signage, registration and $50,000 liability insurance policy.
"Under the code, a pit bull is defined as follows:
The Staffordshire bull terrier breed of dog;
The American pit bull terrier breed of dog;
The American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog;
Any dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, or a combination of any of these breeds."
Constitutionality of breed-specific laws
Dogsbite.org provides an impressive list of state and federal court decisions that have upheld the constitutionally of breed-specific pit bull laws, and states, “The United States Supreme Court has weighed in favorably as well.”
Photo: WI Voters, Change.org