No bans on pit bulls allowed, Michigan’s Senate said on Thursday.
The chamber voted 22-13 to prohibit local governments from dictating breed-specific regulations on dogs. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.
About 30 of Michigan’s local governments have some form of breed-specific regulation, which entail outright bans but also methods such as compulsory neutering, additional liability insurance, muzzle requirements for owners of certain dogs.
Canines that are perceived as more aggressive – mostly pit bulls, but also Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Cane Corsos – are most targeted by these breed-specific rules. Among the pack, pit bulls have typically been targeted the most by such ordinances in Michigan.
The bill applies to cities, counties and other local government bodies. If it passes, Michigan would join at least 20 other states that prohibit breed-specific legislation.
Bill supporters say these rules encroach on dog owners’ property rights, and that targeting certain breeds is a waste of time in preventing dog bites.
“The breed is not the strongest predictor of whether or not a dog is going to be dangerous,” said Dr. Emily Patterson-Kane, an animal welfare scientist at the American Veterinary Medical Association. “You could argue about whether it’s even a predictor at all. It’s that weak.”
A number of pit bull maulings have made Michigan headlines, such as a December attack that gruesomely injured a child in Kalamazoo. But evidence by the AVMA indicates pit bulls aren’t necessarily born killers – although their upbringing could indicate why some people dislike them, Patterson-Kane said.
“These are dogs that not very good owners would get because they thought they were macho,” she said. “That’s part of what tells you it’s human behavior that’s weaponizing dogs. It isn’t that the dog is innately a hazard.”
The AVMA study found when adjusted per capita, pit bulls were not disproportionately dangerous.
Patterson-Kane said every era has a different mascot to play the “dangerous mutt.” In the 1980s, she said, it was the German Shepherd, while during the previous decade people mostly feared Doberman Pinschers. Moreover, maintaining breed-specific legislation could be cumbersome, she said, because dog breeds are so intermixed that there is little consensus on which breeds are actually pit bulls.
Sen. Tom Casperson, however, said he voted no Thursday because he hasn’t heard complaints from dog owners in his district, which covers areas ruled by breed-specific ordinances.
“If I had heard a lot of complaints from people it would change my mind,” the Republican from Escanaba said. “I just haven’t heard that. It seems like these ordinances are working for my district.”
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