Minn. Lawmaker Proposes Ban on Dog Breeds Deemed Dangerous

June 19, 2007

A state lawmaker called on his colleagues last week to make it illegal to own five breeds of dogs he deemed a threat to public safety.

Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, said he plans to push next year for a state ban on Akitas, chow chows, Rottweilers, pit bulls and wolf hybrids or mixed-breed dogs with any of the above traits.

“You never hear stories about roving packs of golden retrievers attacking children in our streets,” Lesch said. “But you do hear about the pit bulls, who are responsible, according to Minnesota statistics, for up to one third of the vicious attacks in this state in the past five years.”

To drive home his point, Lesch appeared at a Capitol news conference with 5-year-old Brianna Senn, whose face carried wounds from a pit bull attack this month on St. Paul’s East Side. He mentioned other serious attacks in recent months and distributed a packet of news clippings about them.

The dog that attacked Brianna was previously declared “potentially dangerous” by city inspectors. Her mother, Kristina Eide, said it’s time to get tougher on such dogs.

“I would rather protect my daughter than protect an animal,” she said.

Violating the proposed law would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine.

A half-dozen members of a group that finds homes for neglected or abandoned Rottweilers, pit bulls and other nontraditional breeds criticized the proposal as too difficult to enforce and unfair to responsible dog owners.

“I don’t think mass exterminating five breeds of dogs is going to solve the problem of dog bites,” said Kellie Dillner, assistant education director with A Rotta Love Plus.

Dillner said better enforcing existing dangerous dog laws would be more effective than enacting breed-specific bans.

The city of Denver enacted a pit bull ban in 2005. This April, three dog owners filed a federal lawsuit over the ordinance giving them the choice of moving out of the city or giving up their pets to have them put to death. A least 1,110 dogs have been seized and killed under the law, according to the lawsuit’s backers.

Miami and Cincinnati are two other major cities that ban pit bulls, according to the American Canine Foundation.

Minnesota legislators last took a serious look at the dangerous dog issue in 2001. Another St. Paul Democrat, then-Rep. Andy Dawkins, pushed to require microchips be implanted in dogs seized after attacks to keep better track of them. Owners must pay the cost of implanting the chips.

Other law changes required annual registration of dogs labeled dangerous for past attacks. It also spelled out how animal control authorities can go about destroying dogs that inflict “substantial or great bodily harm” on humans.

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