Saturday, April 18, 2009
Court Rules Miami-Dade County Pit Bull Ban Unenforceable
A court ruled Miami-Dade's 20 year ban on pit bulls was too vague in defining "pit bull" and unfairly let animal control officers basically guess whether a dog is a pit bull. This lawsuit pertained to a dog named Apollo specifically, and opens the door to a broader lawsuit against the ban. Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation (MCABSL) and Animal Law Coalition applaud a court ruling that the Miami Dade County Pit Bull ban is too vague, and the county cannot enforce the finding by animal control that a dog is a pit bull that must be euthanized or removed from the county. The ruling came in a case challenging the finding by Miami Dade County Animal Control that a family pet named Apollo was a “pit bull” that must be removed from the county or euthanized. The county bans all dogs that “substantially conform” to American Kennel Club standards for American Staffordshire Terriers or Staffordshire Bull Terriers or United Kennel Club standards for American Pit Bull Terriers. To determine if a dog substantially conforms to these standards, animal control uses a chart that lists 15 body parts such as “head”, “neck”, “lips”, “chest”, “eyes”, “tail”, “hind legs”, etc. The officer places a check mark to indicate whether each characteristic conforms or not to a pit bull. If 3 or more characteristics are checked “conform”, the dog is declared a pit bull. Rima Bardawil, the attorney for Apollo, pointed out that there is no such chart authorized by the ordinance and it is not clear what standards animal control is using in making its determinations. Also, Dahlia Canes, executive director of MCABSL, testified that animal control is “constantly” mis-identifying the breeds of dogs. She told the court about one dog that was declared by an animal control officer to be a pit bull mix and ordered euthanized. Canes arranged to have the dog re-evaluated and he was determined to be a mastiff mix. The dog was then adopted to a family in Miami-Dade County. In this case the animal control officer photographed Apollo from several feet away and then using the photo, picked 3 body parts he said he thought conformed to pit bull standards, whatever those are. As Canes pointed out later, “Many breeds of dogs and mixes have the same or similar traits. It is impossible to determine breed this way. Seriously, you are going to say a dog is a pit bull based on 3 traits like round eyes, broad shoulders and a muscular body? Dogs are many times genetically a mix of many different breeds. The judge agreed. This proves breed shouldn’t be a factor in deciding whether a dog presents a danger.” # # # Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation was formed in 2008 to end Miami Dade County's pit bull ban. For more information and how you can help, visit www.mcabsl.wildapricot.org Animal Law Coalition works to stop animal cruelty and suffering through legislation, administrative agency action, and litigation. ALC offers legal analysis of the difficult and controversial issues relating to animals. Visit www.animallawcoalition.com for more information.
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