The city of Lynn, MA just passed an ordinance requiring ‘pit bulls’ to be muzzled when off owners’ properties. Now, if you know me, you know that I’m a big opponent of breed-specific legislation in general, for many reasons. Often, animal control officers or the victims themselves mis-identify breeds, and I’ve personally seen situations where ACOs have identified dogs as ‘pit bulls’ that later turned out to be Golden Retrievers! Furthermore, the idea that a particular dog is pre-disposed to violence is incorrect, and is perpetuated by sad stories like the Michael Vick dogfighting case.
Besides the general issues I have with breed-specific legislation, there are a couple of things about the Lynn case that are just downright appalling. Let’s consider the last paragraph of the story linked above:
City officials are considering a colored collar tag for pit bulls that have received behavior training and are allowed to walk the streets leashed but not muzzled.
Pit bull owners must also post a sign on their property that warns “Beware of Dog” or notes that a pit bull is on the premises. Further, no single household can have more than two pit bulls.
Seriously? A specially-colored tag that must be worn for registered and approved pit bulls? A sign that must be placed on every owner’s property? I’ll try and be respectful to the politicians of Lynn here, because I think for the most part they’re reacting to an angry constituency afraid for their children because of a highly publicized attack on a baby (please note, I have 3 dogs, and I would never advocate leaving them unattended with children…I also don’t think children should be left unattended in bathtubs surrounded by plugged-in toasters, but I support crispy bread and cleanliness in a more general sense). But forcing people who have done nothing wrong to identify their houses and their pets should really, really sound wrong to anyone who has ever studied even a little bit of history.
If you’re still worried about your children’s safety, please read this article from the MSPCA (which opposes breed-specific laws like the one in Lynn) that explains how the problem of bad dog owners can be addressed properly. With increased penalties against owners for bites by unneutered and unspayed dogs of all breeds, along with good education about dog ownership and responsibility, dog bites in a community can be reduced. Fear and hatred, however, only breeds anger and lawsuits. After all, Lynn tried this 25 years ago and a judge ruled the law unconstitutional. The new law is much more cleverly worded, but it will inevitably be challenged. We can only hope the Constitution still holds weight in Lynn today.