Cities banning specific dogs breed may soon be a thing of the past. HB 97, Limitation on Local Government Regulation of Animals, sponsored by Representative Brian King (Democrat – Salt Lake City), passed the House floor 43-24 on Thursday.
King initially was approached by an employee about banning breed specific ordinances. Originally, King was hesitant on the idea, saying that he initially thought the bill “wasn’t very good because it ties the hands of local government.” After discussing the issue with his friend and doing some research that he came to the conclusion that breed specific laws in cities are “awful and [don’t] work.”
Currently, there are ten cities in Utah that ban specific dog breeds in their within their city boundaries. If King’s bill passes, it would void all current laws regarding dog breed restrictions. While the bill doesn’t explicitly grant the state the rights to regulate dog breeds, King has discussed the bill as if the state would take up the responsibility. The bill preserves cites’ the right to licensing, selling and disposal of dogs. .
David Berg, founder of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, says that while the bill is well intended, it takes away too much power from municipalities to regulate issues like puppy mills and dog fighting. “Pit bulls were breed for a specific reason, to kill. Municipalities should have the right to restrict breeds within their boundaries, because in the end, these dogs need a home and [some owners] aren’t equipped [for pit bulls].” Berg cited his own personal experience when his canine companion, Stitch, was brutally attacked by three pit bulls in the park. Berg said that Stitch nearly died and that the tragic experience shifted his view on aggressive breeds like the pit bull.
Representative John Mathis (Republican – Vernal) spoke in favor of the bill. “This is hard for me,” said Mathis, “[..] there is no way we can legislate total safety in society. We have leash laws, we have ordinances that owners are responsible for their pets.” Mathis says that the problem with the term “pit bull” is that it is not considered a breed, but a type of dog that share the same characteristics. This issue leave open to litigation and legal problems for cities, according to Mathis.
Representative Rich Cunningham (Republican – South Jordan) railed against the bill, in part because he felt that bill was a first step into a more complicated matter. Citing city restrictions on the number of dogs a household could have, Cunningham suggested that next year the State Legislature could adopt a statewide restriction and take away licensing revenue from the cities.
The bill is to be sponsored by Senator Ralph Okerlund (Republican – Monroe) as it progresses through the Senate.