Is it common sense to allow cities and towns to pass rules specific to certain dog breeds, such as pit bulls, in the name of public safety? Or do they unfairly target certain dogs?
Last week, Gov. Deval Patrick signed an animal rights bill that takes effect Nov. 1 and includes a stipulation prohibiting cities and towns from creating breed specific rules at the local level.
The move has angered some Boston officials, the Boston Herald reports, as the new state law would negate the city's "Responsible Pit Bull Ownership" ordinance that, among other rules, requires pit bull owners to keep their dogs muzzled when off the owner's private property. Boston adopted the ordinance in 2004 after several pit bull attacks in the city captured officials' attention.
Other cities have also wrangled over how to deal with a perceived issue regarding pit bulls and public safety. In Malden, the city council approved a bill this spring that would have required muzzles for newly registered pit bulls, but Mayor Gary Christenson later vetoed the bill and suggested amendments to the law.
After his veto in April, Christenson wrote to the council, "The ordinance should be centered on how a dog behaves and not how a dog looks as I believe this legislation suggests."
The Best Friends Animal Society says that about half of the dogs killed in shelters today are pit bulls or pit bull mixes, and that there are 20 different species of dogs that are commonly confused with pit bulls, thus making breed-discriminatory rules hard to enforce. The Humane Society of the United States says that in media-reported animal cruelty cases, dogs and in particular pit bulls are the most common victims of animal cruelty.
On the other hand, DogsBite.org, a national dog bite victims' group, says that from 2006 to 2008, pit bulls accounted for 59 percent of all fatal dog attacks in the U.S. The next highest breed, rottweilers, accounted for 14 percent of those deaths.
Is the new state law prohibiting breed specific local ordinances turning a blind eye to a problem? Or do those types of rules unfairly target a specific breed and punish dogs for having bad owners? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
(Editor's note: This article is published to several Patch sites north of Boston.)