DogsBite.org - We've recently updated our FAQ sheet about breed-specific law, which is located in the Legislating Dogs section. The FAQ sheet can be read online and is also available as a downloadable PDF file. The document covers the nuts and bolts of breed-specific law, including: What is a breed-specific law and does my city need one? The document also covers the most common types of breed-specific law, as well as enforcement issues.
We encourage you to send the FAQ sheet to your city council, particularly if they are considering stonger dangerous dog laws.
The FAQ sheet answers the commonly asked question, "Why not just enforce the laws we already have?" The document states, "Most cities have laws that take effect after a person has been bitten, in some instances, only after a second person has been bitten. In these cities, a pit bull can attack two separate victims, leaving each with severe injury before substantial penalties are triggered. Such laws were designed for a 'common' dog bite, not a pit bull bite that often results in lifelong damage."
Regarding enforcement issues, the FAQ sheet uses examples found in the cities of San Francisco (pit bull sterilization), Council Bluffs (pit bull ban) and Aurora (fighting breed ban). Each city operates on the "enforce as you go" model. This means that authorities take action as they become aware of infractions. The paper discusses how higher registration fees for restricted breeds help pay for enforcement as do lower shelter occupancy rates that result after the restrictions are in place.
The document also addresses the question: "I own a German shepherd; will my dog be regulated next?" The FAQ sheet states that breed-specific laws were designed for pit bull type dogs. A tiny percentage of cities have expanded these laws to include "fighting breeds," but these instances are rare. The document adds, "The rational basis of regulating pit bulls, as opposed to any other breed, is that selective breeding has produced a dog with bite and attack traits unlike any other dog."
Lastly, the document addresses the constitutionality of breed-specific laws. It states that 11 U.S. State Supreme Courts have upheld the constitutionality of breed-specific law including: Washington, Colorado, Ohio, New Mexico, Florida, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. The document adds that U.S. District Courts and the United States Supreme Court have also weighed in on breed-specific laws.
"In February of 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the Ohio State Supreme Court's decision in the Toledo vs. Tellings case. Pit bull advocates had argued that the law was unconstitutional on several grounds, all of which the Ohio State Supreme Court rejected. By refusing the appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Toledo's breed-specific law constitutional, and the case cannot be appealed further."
06/23/08: Report: Dog Attacks on Livestock and Horses January - May 2008