County Wins Lawsuit
UPDATE 05/24/09: A May 21 ruling ended a long winded battle over the county's no-adopt out policy on pit bulls. In a 13-page opinion1, Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Burke F. McCahill sided with the county. He said the county's current policy on pit bulls, put in place by the Board of Supervisors, does not break state rules on dog ownership rights and breed bias. McCahill said, "A citizen's right to own a pit bull is entirely different than a citizen's right to adopt."
"He continued, saying the breed bias would be difficult to prove. The plaintiff's attorneys in this case argued that the euthanasia of pit bulls at the shelter far out numbered those of other dog breeds. This statistic, they said, proved that the shelter was exhibiting signs of breed bias.
McCahill disagreed, saying, "...use of this term as well as the statistics can be misleading for a variety of reasons." He said the statistics did not take into account the various behaviors of the individual dogs.
"If I were to rely on the statistics alone," he said, "I would have to ignore the evidence that there are differences in breed characteristics."
Finally, McCahill said, the lawsuit against the county was really a complaint against a legislative decision made by the county supervisors.
"The decision to not allow adoptions was made by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors," he said. "Although couched differently in the pleadings, this case is really an attempt to attack a policy decision of a legislative body."
The irony of McCahill's ruling is that pit bull advocates and lobbying groups often attempt to dismantle -- or show as inconsequential -- "bite statistics" that depict a high number of pit bull bites when a city is considering a pit bull law. They complain that such statistics are "misleading" and fail to take into consideration the "behaviors of the individual dogs." Yet when statistics suit their purposes, as in this instance, the plaintiff's base their case upon them.
In his opinion, Judge Burke F. McCahill did not stop there either. He also remarked on the "differences in breed characteristics2," and that the statistics clearly showed these differences, which did not work in the plaintiff's favor. Finally, and in no lightly worded manner, McCahill questioned the validity of the plaintiff's case. He said, "although couched differently in the pleadings," this case was really an "attempt to attack" a policy decision of a legislative body.
2Loudoun County officials had argued that there is no "breed bias" but a "characteristic bias" against pit bulls, a term used for a group of breeds that have long been associated with dogfights, gangs and deadly attacks.
05/07/09: Pit Bull Policy Challenged in Court
Loudoun, VA - Last May, we updated readers on the "No Adopt Out" pit bull policy at the Loudoun County Animal Shelter. At that time, Judge Burke F. McCahill denied a request by Loudoun County Animal Care and Control to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Ron Litz in 2007 charging the county's adoption policy of stray and abandoned pit bulls is illegal. The lawsuit has finally been heard, but a ruling may not come for a few days or months.
The case has been in court for two years now and has been fraught with various scandals, including the pit bull advocacy forum, www.pitbullforum.com, getting zinged by the Washington Post for their unethical pit bull spamming activities. Essentially, a forum user instructed other users how to skew the poll so that the results would show that Loudoun residents opposed the policy. A shelter employee discovered the scam and alerted management.
McCahill's ruling could reverse the existing "No Adopt Out" policy. The key question for McCahill may be if the county's current policy goes against Virginia's dangerous dog statute, which prohibits a "breed" of dog to be considered dangerous. County attorney Zeta Thompson said that the dangerous dog statute does not govern the county animal shelter, but only pertains to dogs that are seized, and determined to be dangerous by the court.
05/08/08: Loudoun County "No Adopt Out" Pit Bull Policy Being Challenged
12/11/07: Online Pit Bull Forum Blamed for Skewing Survey Results