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Legislative Updates: Increased Activity on Legislative Fronts

A March 26, 2013, meeting at the city of Bluefield, W.V., resulted in standing room only at city hall, as residents showed up to protest additions to breed-specific legislation that was enacted in 2008. Discussion of the 5-year-old law was prompted when the city’s animal control officer was allegedly attacked on March 6 by a dog that “broke loose from its chain in the owner’s backyard.” The officer was attempting to help the owner confine a second dog, which had reportedly been running lose in the neighborhood. The Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported that the city employee suffered “severe bite wounds on both arms.”

Current law mandates that “pit bulls, wolf-hybrids and wolf-mixed breeds” must have been registered with the Bluefield Police Department within 10 days of passage of the ordinance in 2008, or within 10 days of moving an animal into the city. Owners must also leash the dogs while walking them and have a doghouse that meets city regulations. Following the incident on March 6 and at least one subsequent call for stronger dangerous dog laws, city officials reminded residents that there was already a law in place. Upon further investigation, City Manager Jim Ferguson discovered that there were no dogs registered with the police department, which prompted him to schedule the matter for discussion at the March 26 meeting. By the time the meeting took place, citizens had registered eight “pit bulls” with the city.

Numerous residents spoke out at the meeting, many advocating for the “ban the deed, not the breed” approach, and suggesting that education and a more professional approach by the animal control department would be preferable to enacting more legislation. City officials have not taken further action at this time.

Also in West Virginia, on March 6 the state’s senate majority leader introduced a bill that would impose restrictions on people who own more than 11 intact dogs and limit ownership to 50 intact dogs. AKC opposes laws that limit animal ownership in general as “ineffective” and “arbitrary,” and says they “do not address the underlying issue of responsible ownership.” An amended version of the bill passed the West Virginia Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on March 26 and now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where AKC reports that it must be considered within a matter of days.

The state of Tennessee also has a bill under consideration that would require owners of “dangerous” and “vicious” dogs to have liability insurance policies in the amount of $25,000 to cover injuries inflicted by the dog. Of primary concern in this bill are that a dog “possessed of tendencies to attack” other animals, which could include rodents, squirrels and the like would be labeled as dangerous, as would those vaguely deemed “capable of causing serious bodily injury…to humans or other animals.” An amendment to the bill would define a dog that “belongs to a breed commonly known as a pit bull dog” to be vicious. AKC has compiled contact information for relevant legislators here.

On the other side of BSL, the state of Connecticut is considering legislation that would prohibit municipalities from adopting breed-specific dog ordinances. The bill was introduced on January 30 by the Planning and Development Committee and is making its way through the legislative process. In New Mexico, a similar bill passed the House of Representatives and the Senate Public Affairs committee in early March and is now pending in the Senate Judiciary committee.

On March 15 the New York State Assembly Insurance Committee passed Bill 3952, which prohibits insurance companies from canceling homeowner’s liability insurance policies or raising premiums based on ownership of a specific breed of dog. This bill is now in the Assembly Codes Committee. Contact information for assembly members can be found here  for citizens wishing to express their views.  AKC offers a sample letter  which can be personalized.

There is a great deal happening on the legislative front at this time, and it is important for fanciers to respond to potentially troublesome proposals in their states and municipalities.

Best In Show Daily provides a biweekly look at dog-related legislation that is being considered, is pending and has passed around the country. The American Kennel Club also maintains Legislative Alerts of which it has determined fanciers should be aware. If you learn of proposed legislation that you feel we should report on, please feel free to contact me at Christi@bestinshowdaily.com.

Written by

Christi McDonald is a second-generation dog person, raised with a kennel full of Cairn Terriers. After more than a decade as a professional handler’s apprentice and handling professionally on her own, primarily Poodles and Cairns, she landed a fortuitous position in advertising sales with the monthly all-breed magazine ShowSight. This led to an 11-year run at Dogs in Review, where she wore several hats, including advertising sales rep, ad sales manager and, finally, editor for five years. Christi is proud to be part of the editorial team for the cutting-edge Best In Show Daily. She lives in Apex, N.C., with two homebred black Toy Poodles, the last of her Foxfire line, and a Norwich Terrier.
  • eshever
    Carlotta Cooper March 31, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    The BSL bill in Tennessee has been withdrawn.

  • Leonore April 1, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    I certainly hope Carlotta’s comment is accurate. The following sentence makes sighthound and terrier owners everywhere shudder: “Of primary concern in this bill are that a dog “possessed of tendencies to attack” other animals, which could include rodents, squirrels and the like would be labeled as dangerous…”

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