Bill would exterminate breed discrimination

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Pit bulls are among the breeds considered to have dangerously aggressive tendencies. Image: Marie Orttenburger.

Pit bulls are among the breeds considered to have dangerously aggressive tendencies. Image: Marie Orttenburger.

By Alexander Smith

State lawmakers are considering a bill to eliminate dog breed discrimination by Michigan cities and towns.

It would prohibit local governments from putting special regulations on particular breeds. Cities that ban dogs such as pit bulls or Rottweilers would have to find breed-neutral ways to regulate them, such as stricter leash laws for dogs above a certain weight or height.

There are 29 cities that have restrictions on particular dog breeds according to the Best Friends Animal Society, which supports the bill sponsored by Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc Township. Each focuses on pit bulls. Fifteen cities ban them outright. Seven restrict them, requiring extra steps such as registration and microchipping. Five declare pit bulls “dangerous.” Saginaw classifies pit bulls along with German shepherds, bull mastiffs, Alaskan malamutes and Rottweilers as dangerous breeds that require registration and stricter handling than other dogs. Ypsilanti Charter Township requires sterilization of pit bulls.

Kelley LaBonty, founder of the Detroit Animal Welfare Group, said the biggest problem with breed-specific laws is that the animals are hard to identify. DNA testing is the only way to be sure of a dog’s breed, she said, but often a dog is misidentified by sight.

“We adopt many types of dogs that could be seen as pit bulls,” LaBonty said. “We don’t see a difference in any behavioral issues with those dogs.”

Some opponents think DNA testing is overkill. Waterford resident Vaughn Wagner recently testified before a House committee that identification by sight has been working just fine.

“If it looks like a pit bull, it’s a pit bull,” said Wagner, who said he witnessed an attack shortly before Waterford passed its pit bull ban in 1988. Preventive measures are better than harsher punishments after an attack, such as higher fines and possible jail time, he said. Breed-specific bans prevent those attacks in the first place.

However, many people place responsibility on the owner, not the dog. One attack victim agrees that breed-specific legislation is not the answer.

Lansing resident, Rolland Mollitor was attacked by a Rottweiler when he was seven. The bite took a chunk out of his leg and left him terrified of dogs, he said. His next encounter was with a pit bull two years later.

“I remember when I moved to DeWitt, a pit bull ran up to me,” Mollitor said. “My first instinct was to run from it, but it turned out to be the neighbor’s dog.”

Mollitor and his parents met the pit bull when the owner visited. The dog was well-trained and Mollitor was impressed.

“Just being around another type of dog that’s usually considered aggressive, that’s what really helped me get over my fear of dogs,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what breed it is. If it has a good owner, it’s a good dog.”

The bill cleared the Senate last October. Robertson’s legislative director, April Alleman, said the senator expects the House committee to vote on the bill soon.

This story is reported by Capital News Service

6 thoughts on “Bill would exterminate breed discrimination

  1. Communities should be sterilizing criminal behavior like the morons that are misusing these animals. Oh and the State has authorities over communities by default. Human misuse is a criminal act, not being the animal trained on targets. Learned behavior can be unlearned unlike in most human breeds…

  2. States should in no way impede communities from passing laws that protect their communities. That seems unconstitutional.

  3. The bill will exterminate loss of people and animals when they are unable to NEVER live near a pit bull. Pit bulls are like chimps or tigers in a house..everybody is at risk for attack…everybody.

  4. Thanks for this article. We grew up with black labs, and have had shepherd/huskies and huskies over the years, all of whom have been friendly, but have noticed that people tend to assume that German shepherd mixes can be dangerous and avoid them. This worked well for me when I had a shepherd/husky because when he would travel with me or I had to run errands late at night, nobody ever bothered me.
    When my son was small we had a babysitter who had a very sweet pit bull who played with the kids, all of them under the age of 6. She never left the kids alone with the dog, but on the other hand, there was never an issue with the dog.
    Although I still have a preference for labs and huskies, I truly think it’s all in the way dogs are trained from birth on how to behave that determines whether they are trustworthy.

  5. Pit bulls killed 28 Americans in 2015. All other breeds combined killed 6, with 2 unknowns that could have been pit bulls. In 2016… so far… it is 20 deaths by pits and 3 by all other breeds combined. 48 people killed by pit bulls against 9 by all other breeds combined. Pit bulls, 5-6% of the population, have killed more than 5 times more often than all other breeds combined since January 1, 2015. I see a trend in those numbers. Pit bulls are banned in dozens of countries, more than 937 US jurisdictions and all US military bases. Evidently, there are a lot of other people that can see the trend as well. What is the most numerous animal in shelters?… Go look at any shelter’s website, they are full of unadoptable pits. What other breed needs a paid, professional lobby? http://www.dogsbite.org collects data on all dog attacks. You can see the numbers there as well. It is past time to ban these purpose bred blood sport animals. Spay and neuter the purpose bred blood sport animal into extinction.

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