A new law that took effect Thursday prevents cities and towns from banning specific dog breeds, a move Utah animal welfare advocates say ends one form of legal discrimination.
“Any dog breed has the potential of being vicious,” said Gene Baierschmidt, the executive director of the Humane Society of Utah.
State Rep. Brian King, a Salt Lake City Democrat who authored the law, said 10 Utah cities had bans against owning dogs such as pit bulls, a breed perceived to be more aggressive.
The new law, which took effect Jan. 1, nullifies those laws and prevents new ones from being adopted.
‘It moves us away from stigmatizing a specific breed of dog,” King said.
At one time, German Shepherds were thought of as attack dogs, but King said that reputation has faded, and now, pit bulls face a similar stigma.
King hopes the new law will shift debate to owners and the way they raise their animals.
“If you ill-treat an animal or you teach them to be aggressive because you want to breed a junk-yard dog, that’s not right,” King said. “You’re doing the dog a disservice, and you’re doing your neighbors a big disservice.”
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the 10 cities that had bans were: South Jordan, North Salt Lake, Springville, Delta, Duchesne, Fillmore, Garland, Honeyville, Morgan and Smithfield.
South Jordan, which opposed King’s law, banned pit bulls after a girl was attacked while walking home in 1997.
Paul Cunningham, the South Jordan city chief of staff, said citizens had requested the ban following the attack.
To comply with the new law, the city repealed its ban in November and passed a new ordinance that focuses on dog behavior.
“If someone has a dog that becomes a danger to the community, we put some pretty restrictive kinds of things, including some insurance requirements and signage requirements to try and protect the public,” Cunningham said.
Cathy Boruch, the executive director of Heber City-based pet rescue Paws for Life, said pit bulls can make great, loyal pets and don’t deserve a bad reputation.
“It’s all based on how they are trained, how they are treated and how they are understood by members of the family,” Boruch said. “They are no different than other breeds of dogs, except in the sense that they often need strong leadership.”
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