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MI: State bill would outlaw local bans on pit bulls

Discussion in 'Laws & Legislation' started by Vicki, Dec 4, 2015.

  1. Vicki

    Vicki Administrator Staff Member

    Even if Detroit were to pass a ban on pit bulls, the city — and 14 others that have passed such prohibitions — could be preempted by legislation now pending in Lansing.

    In fact, the Detroit City Council is ready to take a fresh looks at the city's laws regarding vicious dogs, says its president, now that a 4-year-old Detroit boy was mauled to death Wednesday.

    The council considered a pit bull ban in 2006 after a string of high-profile dog killings in metro Detroit — one of which involved a pit bull. The ban never passed.

    "Although a previous council body has explored tougher legislation in the past that was rejected by the community, this body will take a fresh look into existing laws to determine what may be needed to provide a safer environment and protection from vicious animals," a statement from council President Brenda Jones read. "Our hearts are numb and our love and support go out to young Xavier's family."

    The state Senate in October approved a bill that would prohibit local governments from banning specific breeds of dog, part of a push nationwide by animal rights groups to undo what they say are discriminatory local laws against pit bulls. Senate Bill 239, sponsored by state Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, would prohibit breed-specific bans but would allow cities to continue tougher restrictions on breeds such as pit bulls.

    In Michigan, cities that have banned pit bulls include Ecorse, Highland Park, Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Park in Wayne County and Waterford and Sylvan Lake in Oakland County, according to DogsBite.org, a nonprofit group that advocates nationally for pit bull bans. An additional 12 cities in Michigan have passed restrictions, ranging from banning pit bulls declared dangerous, to mandatory sterilization and tougher registration and monitoring of the dogs.

    Nationally, about 700 cities have banned or restricted pit bull ownership.

    Detroit has a number of laws on the books that deal with dog ownership and vicious dogs. Under city law, a vicious animal is one that has mauled, killed or caused a serious injury without provocation. It is illegal to own or keep a vicious dog, and anyone with a dog that has attacked a person has the duty and responsibility to notify Animal Control. City law also says that up to four dog licenses can be issued to a single residence.

    Detroit continues to have a problem with stray dogs — including pit bulls — roaming the streets. And there have been other incidents of pit bulls seriously injuring or killing people.

    In October 2012, a 3-week-old girl was killed by a pit bull after her mother left the girl in a car seat on the floor inside a house on Detroit's west side. And in October 2014, a pack of malnourished pit bulls attacked 51-year-old Steven Constantine as he tried to feed them.

    The attack Wednesday happened on the west side in Councilman George Cushingberry Jr.’s District 2. When asked about proposing or supporting a pit bull ban, Cushingberry demurred, saying he would let others decide.

    “I wouldn’t let my grandbabies around those kind of dogs,” he said. “Quite frankly, those dogs (that attacked the boy) need to be killed. You can’t breed those dogs to fight because this is what happens.” Police shot and killed three of the dogs Wednesday. The fourth has been quarantined.

    But Cushingberry said the city’s Animal Control division needs some help in dealing with vicious dogs. He said he has been trying to encourage the city to contract with the Michigan Humane Society. “We have an animal control issue,” he said.

    Of the Democratic senators representing Detroit, Coleman Young II and Morris Hood III voted against the Michigan bill that would prohibit bans on breeds of dogs. Virgil Smith voted in favor of it and Bert Johnson was absent.

    Young and Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, protested passage of the bill at the time, saying it undermines the ability of local governments to address critical safety issues. Smith did not return an email seeking comment Thursday.

    Animal rights groups including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States oppose breed-specific bans, arguing that such prohibitions unfairly tarnish a breed that, when properly raised, is no more dangerous than others. They say the responsibility for safety should be on dog owners.

    Matt Helms and Joe Guillen, Detroit Free Press 9:34 p.m. EST December 3, 2015

    “The heart of the issue isn’t the breed of the dog, it’s the actions of the breeders, trainers and guardians of the animals, the pet owners,” said Ryan McTigue, spokesman for the Michigan Humane Society.

    McTigue said dangerous animal laws on the books, if properly enforced, are enough to address mauling dangers.

    But Lynn, who now lives in Texas, said evidence shows that bans and restrictions such as mandatory sterilization of pit bulls — which helps reduce the population of stray and unwanted dogs — significantly lower injury rates.

    She rejects the argument by advocates that the issue isn’t the breed.

    “They want us to ignore the heritage of the pit bull breed,” Lynn said, noting decades of them being bred for fighting. “Pit bulls show up disproportionately in fatalities because of the style of their bites — hold and shake — and once they’ve started an attack, it’s usually impossible to stop. Often it takes intervention of a firearm to stop it.

    “Normal dogs bite and release. Pit bulls don’t do that. They hold on and won’t let go.”

    State bill would outlaw local bans on pit bulls

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