Livonia, Michigan considers breed-specific dog laws

Posted on Oct 30, 2008

In the surrounding towns and cities in the Detroit area, six dog attack victims are petitioning their local government for stricter dog ordinances and tighter Michigan leash laws - all in the hopes of cutting the number of dog attacks in Michigan and preventing future animal attacks. These laws would be breed-specific and would target historically aggressive lines of dog.

The areas debating these laws in Michigan include Farmington Hills, Southfield, Allen Park, Redford Township, and Wyandotte, according to The Detroit News.

Diana Judge is a specific example of what is now coming up in City Councils in the area. She was ambushed by two pit bulls last summer who had escaped from a nearby yard. In the attack, her hands were mauled, she lost a fingernail, and the Welsh Corgi she was walking was killed. Now Judge is fighting for a law that would require pit bull owners to follow special obedience training and licensing procedures in order to have the dogs for pets. Depending on the town, the officials are thinking about requiring muzzles, microchips, and liability insurance to owners of problem breeds or aggressive dogs.

On the other side of the argument are animal advocates, who say that targeting so-called "bully breeds" is unfair to both the dog and the owner. They also argue that if the current laws were better enforced, new laws would not be needed.

"Ordinances and laws against specific breeds are unacceptable. It's not an answer to the problem," said Al Stinson, director of legislative affairs for the Michigan Association for Pure Bred Dogs. "It would be a good start to enforce laws on the books statewide. Until we stop that behavior this is not going to solve the problem."

Bully breeds, however, have a long history of violence in Detroit, with many associating pit bulls with violence, crime, and dog fighting rings. Allen Park has found that seven out of 35 of last year's dog attacks came from bully breeds - a number that is perhaps not high enough to be concerning. Still some City Councilmen like James Flynn, see this as an opportunity to stop even one dog bite attack to occur.

"The dogs seem to be more aggressive than most types. They are innately more prone to attacking," he said. "My biggest fear, as an elected official, is someone coming to me and saying, 'Sir you had the opportunity (to do something) about a known threat and opted not to'."

Pit bulls already face some discrimination - many pounds, like the Livingston County Animal Shelter, can euthenize pit bulls four days after no owner claims them. However, pit bulls only comprise of five percent of Detroit's dog bite cases. However, the difference is that put bull attacks are often far more serious.

Waterford Township, Melvindale, Grosse Pointe Woods and Ecorse prohibit bully breeds. Over the last decade, others like Dearborn Heights, Westland, Muskegon Heights, Alma, Morenci and Roosevelt Park have passed laws regulating pit bull owners. The other cities and towns will make their decisions in the coming weeks.


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