Sunday, December 5, 2010

Neighborhood Bully under seige

An ordinance being considered in Gwinnett would require all Pit bull owners to register their dogs under the new law. The new ordinance would also discriminate against pit bull owners by requiring them to provide name, address and a registration fee to the county to possess a pit bull. Owners would also have to provide proof of insurance, a full description of the pit bull, including a photo, and proof of inoculation. They would be required to provide a study enclosure that does not share fencing with a perimeter fence.

Penalties under the law proposed would include fines, jail time and court ordered impounding of any dogs identified as pits even if the dogs have never demonstrated vicious or aggressive behavior.

The decision to end a healthy pet's life has always been a flashpoint for conflict, more than ever this decision making process is being contested––and the disputes are increasingly often taken to the outside world. In effect, all pit bulls or even dogs suspected of being pits would be guilty even if proven innocent.

The law would still define as vicious any dog that, without provocation, has killed or injured a person or has killed another dog with an absolute presumption pit bulls are by definition violent and vicious.

Is BSL a license to kill?

The neighborhood bully he just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down while his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully

His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He’s got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, the chances are against it, and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that politicians make for him
Cause there’s a noose around his neck and a gun at his head
And now a license to kill him is given to every maniac – Bob Dylan

When pit bulls are outlawed, only outlaws will own pit bulls

An ad hoc committee set up to draft a new “Dangerous Dog Ordinance” in Douglasville has all but died when Public Safety committee chair announced he was not interested in considering it any further. Instead, the discussion has shifted to evaluating what can be done enforcing the current provisions as written under the current animal ordinances.

Taxpayers want community police resources to be directed at real criminals, not dog owners. The public wants the drugs and the gang bangers and thugs doing home invasions to be hauled off – not the neighbors’ friendly family pet that oftentimes acts as the only line of defense against these punks.

We certainly don’t want to pay to have our animal control agencies conduct witch hunts, deprive honest law abiding citizens of their constitutional rights while implement an agenda of breed specific genocide.

Some believe the vicious image of the pit bull is part of its intrigue. Regulations that criminalize pit bulls only add to the mystique and criminal appeal. Those inclined to participate in gang activity or the drug underworld are not going to line up at animal control with pictures of their pit bulls to register their pit bulls.

We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett are opposed to any breed specific legislation (BSL). The recommendations suggested by our county law department swould dramatically increase the number of pit bulls entering and being killed at our shelter while virtually eliminating any possible adoptions opportunities.

We cannot support BSL type of regulations while building a NO Kill Community. It is be morally reprehensible to kill any dog innocent of any wrongdoing. Our position is that the actions of the dog that makes the dog vicious, not the breed line.

BSL does not work and will not work because the target of the laws – those irresponsible pit bull owners – are the criminals, the drug dealers, the gangbangers and those inclined to fight their dogs would not be registering their dogs with any policing agency.

BSL type laws passed requiring registration are largely ignored. Since pit bull owners would be required to take out liability insurance on their dog and build a separate enclosure, they would now have an financial incentive not to register.

Those responsible pet owners who simply could not afford to comply under the new requirements would have to choose between surrendering their pets or not following the law which would turn their pet ownership into a criminal act.

Criminals who will continue to own pit bulls irresponsibly and responsible pit bull owners who were role models in the community would now be partners in the crime of owning a pit bull. The cost of enforcing this new law and sorting out the various criminal elements would be enormous – any positive results would not.

For Pit Owners “register or you can’t have them here”

A recent WSB-TV investigation of a pit bull attack in Snellville this past August made it clear that the owner(s) of the dogs involved allowed these dogs to run at large. The owner(s) was in clear violation of the leash and restraint provisions of our current “Model Animal Ordinance” passed in 2007.

Section 10-29 Restraint requirements authorize animal control to not only issue citations but impound any threatening or dangerous dogs.

The current animal ordinance provides adequate regulations that protect our community against dogs who are allowed to roam as strays and who subsequently have incidents or engage in aggressive or hostile behavior.

This ordinance includes provisions that protect citizens against dangerous dogs regardless of breed. The law simply needs to be enforced. If animal control would put as much focus in enforcing our leash laws as they do patrolling for barking dogs and wandering cats we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

Animal Control has a clear responsibility to pick up and remove dogs that are in violation of the nuisance ordinance, especially if those dogs present any type of danger to the community. Passing new regulations primarily directed at responsible pet owners who follow the law will only divert enforcement away from problem owners.

It is also important to point out that the “Model Animal Ordinance” also includes specific requirements for dogs deemed vicious or dangerous “based on prior acts” of that specific dog. Classifying ALL pit bulls as vicious or dangerous would require owners to comply with the same requirements as truly aggressive dogs despite any pre-existing behavior warranting those requirements.

Depriving Pet Owners of Constitutional and Due Process rights

Responsible dog owners with well behaved pit bulls or dogs who appear to be pit bulls would not be allowed to take their dogs on walks in public or even allow them to run supervised in their own yards unless the dogs were muzzled.

The mere act of registering a non-aggressive pit to a dangerous or vicious dog registry would be an admission that the dog was potentially dangerous even though the owner has never experienced such behavior.

This “guilty by breed association” places the owner in a tenable position of defending the dog against false allegations simply because the dog is a pit or assumed to be a pit. This was the same problem presented with the county’s infamous but now repealed dog barking ordinance which classified breeds such as beagles as “barkers” or as the county solicitor who wrote the law pointed out “beagles bark – you own beagles – your guilty of owning barking dogs”.

There are serious constitutional issues with passing a broad based registry that includes a vast majority of dogs who have never posed any threat or risk to the community. Anyone who owns a pit and registers that pit as “potentially vicious or dangerous” agrees to allow “any enforcement officer of the department of police services shall have the authority to enter into private or public property for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the provisions of this subsection (d).

What this means is any policing agency would be authorized to enter a pet owners home – your home – on the assumption that you might be harboring one of these banned vicious dogs, even IF you have never actually violated the law.

Dangerous Dog Law or a License to Kill Pit Bulls?

The neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Watching the clock run out, while time is standing still
He’s the neighborhood bully the world wants to kill

Under the law being proposed citizens would be prevented from offering compassionate aid to any dog abandoned in the neighborhood if it resembled a pit bull. Thse dogs would be demonized in the same manner as a wild bear or panther – they would be hunted down and killed.

Compassionate citizens who attempted to offer comfort or shelter to any stray resembling a pit bull would be in violation of the ordinance as well. We would no longer have the discretion of “rescuing” any dog but instead be required to notify animal control even if we understood that would result in the dog being slaughtered. The law provides but another series of obstacles that prevent citizens from being “good Samaritans, even when the dog presents a friendly disposition.

Under the new law citizens have to “hide” any outlawed dogs to rescue them from our own government hell bent on labeling them as canine criminals with a needle full of blue juice being their destiny. Is that REALLY how we want to utilize our police budget and combat neighborhood crime?

Pet owners should not have to surrender the rights granted under the constitution (which includes a reasonable pursuit of happiness) simply as a condition for owning any breed of dog.

We HAVE laws that address all dogs, all breeds that simply need to be enforced by a competent animal control department. Once again We the Pet Owners of Gwinnett question the leadership in animal control lacks the specific guidance to implement it’s own mission of keeping our community safe by enforcing the laws already in place. Changing the ordinances without addressing the leadership vacuum is not a solution that will work.

Pit bulls entering our shelter system already face tremendous odds simply surviving – passing a new law would only exacerbate that problem.

Excluding dogs based on breed could wrongfully implicate some dogs and ignore others that might be more prone to attack. There are some dogs are therapy dogs and some who are simply great dogs who make great family pets and some dogs who are unsocialized no matter what breed they are.

Rather then worry about a specific breed of dog shouldn’t we focus on the people who are choosing them?

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