Editor's note: The Veterinary Policy Notes blog on dvm360.com helps veterinarians and other animal health professionals keep abreast of the growing number of issues, political challenges and regulatory initiatives affecting the veterinary profession, animal health industry and animal welfare movement.
On Aug. 1, 1989, the Denver City Council banned pit bulls. Many people predicted that a wave would sweep the country outlawing so-called “dangerous” breeds. It’s 24 years later, and while other municipalities have followed Denver’s course, the wave is now receding. Even President Obama went on the White House website this last August to announce his opposition to breed-specific legislation.
Three more states passed legislation in 2013 prohibiting governments within their states from passing laws targeting specific breeds: Nevada, Rhode Island and Connecticut. These three joined 15 other states with similar laws barring or severely restricting local governments from taking action against specific breeds of dogs. It should be noted, however, that appellate courts in 12 states have upheld breed-specific bans against constitutional challenges.
While there is no hint that Denver is reconsidering its pit bull ban, dog owners and animal welfare observers in Denver continue to question the fairness of the city’s process in determining which dogs may or may not sleep safely in Denver.
The diversity of states opposing breed-specific legislation, coupled with the legitimacy lent to this position by President Obama, makes it even more likely that additional states will take up the cause in 2014 and outlaw breed bans at the local level. The AVMA and most veterinarians agree with this view and reject the theory that certain breeds are inherently violent or dangerous. It would appear that legislation is catching up with veterinarians’ professional judgment.
Mark Cushing, JD, is founding partner of the Animal Policy Group, providing government relations and strategic services for various animal health, veterinary and educational interests. He maintains offices in Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., and is a frequent speaker at veterinary conferences.