Compelling Testimony by Representatives Who Opposed the Bill
Audio from the March 14 House Floor debate regarding HB 1519 in the Arkansas legislature.
Little Rock, AR - On March 14, there was an impressive House Floor debate concerning HB 1519, a bill prohibiting cities and counties in Arkansas from enacting or enforcing breed-specific laws. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. RJ Hawk (R-District 81), was defeated in a 34-45 vote. Representatives who opposed the bill had powerful, compelling arguments. Representatives who supported the bill voiced "well-worn talking points" from the Pit Bull Lobby. They lost the vote.
Further, supporters of the bill during the debate spoke a number of half-truths and untruths. HB 1519 would have eliminated all breed-specific ordinances in Arkansas, not just "breed bans," as they attempted to portray. Hawk even talks about the "capital city's” vicious dog ordinance, but fails to mention that Little Rock has had a breed-specific ordinance in place since 2009 that declares pit bulls "potentially dangerous." His bill would have killed this local ordinance.
Hawk did not have his facts straight about military breed-specific regulations either. He claimed there were none. The truth is, between 2009 and 2012, all three military divisions -- the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force -- banned dangerous dog breeds on bases and privatized housing, primarily: pit bulls, rottweilers and wolf-dog hybrids. These breed restrictions are still intact today and can be verified through the Department of Defense or that military division.
"As to Brown's testimony, said that the military has banned pit bulls. That's completely false. That is completely false!" - Rep. RJ Hawk
Bill supporters also made false claims about the constitutionality of pit bull ordinances. The false claims come just a few months after the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which governs the state of Arkansas, upheld a city's pit bull ban in November 2022. Further, the city of Maumelle's pit bull ban was upheld by the Supreme Court of Arkansas in 1991. Maumelle city council repealed its ban in April 2021, but not because it was allegedly "unconstitutional."
Rep. Pilkington, who opposed the bill, gave passionate testimony (at 5:57) that included the deaths of two young children, killed by a pair of family pit bulls last October. The family had owned the pit bulls for eight years. Rep. Wooten (at 13:11), corrected another untruth by the bill's supporters, who claimed the bill would only "encourage" cities to adopt breed neutral laws."This [bill] does not encourage [cities] it prohibits" them from having breed-specifics laws, he said.
Rep. Gazaway, a former prosecutor, who opposed the bill (at 17:28), has firsthand experience in prosecuting cases of vicious dog attacks. "Two to one they were pit bulls," Gazaway said. He then proceeded to share a terrifying account of a home-invasion attack by a pit bull: "The pit bull actually left its owner's yard, busted up inside of a person's house and attacked the young boy inside of his own home." The child almost died, "because [the bite] could have severed an artery."
"These breeds are inherently dangerous. They are inherently aggressive. They are by their nature capable of producing fatalities." - Rep. Gazaway
Rep. Brown also shared compelling testimony (at 27:15), including the fatal pit bull mauling of a young boy in Faulkner County in 2020. Robby had gone out to check the mail. When he did not return, his mother began looking for him. "She found his shoes in the driveway, she called 911. His 15-year old sister found his body in the field. He had been mauled to death by two pit bulls," he said. Brown was involved tangentially in the criminal case and would sit in court to watch.
"I had to look at the pictures of this child, this 9-year old boy laying down in the field with his jugular tore out," Brown said. "I had to look at the pictures of him on the medical examiner's table when he had his autopsy," Brown said. "But the most haunting thing I heard was his mother wailing in the courtroom." Having two young children himself, hearing Robby's mother wailing in the courtroom bothered him. "Usually, I am dealing with insurance or banking," Brown said.
Bill Sponsor Closes the Debate
When the debate concluded, Hawk took to the podium again and basically unraveled (at 31:36). In fact, we had to stop the audio at one point in order to make a clarification regarding the former Maumelle pit bull ban. Hawk lashed out at Rep. Pilkington's and Rep. Brown's testimony. Apparently, Hawk had no knowledge of the longstanding military breed-specific regulations on bases and privatized housing. Hawk has only been a state Representative for three months.
We encourage readers to send a thank you message to the Arkansas Representatives who provided powerful testimony in opposition of this bill, including: Rep. Aaron Pilkington, Rep. Jim Wooten, Rep. Jimmy Gazaway and Rep. Matthew Brown. Their email addresses are located on the Legislators List page. It's uncommon to see an assembly of well-versed legislators come together to defeat an anti-BSL preemption bill driven by a "little special interest" group.
"I want prevention. I want to stop this. This is not a solution. So that we can help some little special interest group 'get a win' here..." - Rep. Pilkington
On March 13, the House Committee on City, County and Local Affairs held a hearing for HB 1519. Best Friends Animal Society lobbyist Eric Swafford was the "guest" of Hawk during the hearing.
10/11/22: 2022 Double Dog Bite Fatality: Pair of Family Pit Bulls Kill Two Children in Tennessee
01/15/21: 2020 Dog Bite Fatality: 9-Year Old Boy Killed by Two Pit Bulls in Faulkner County