"City Council to vote on revised version of ordinance

The Indianapolis City-County Council may soon end the debate over a proposed ordinance aimed at curbing dog violence in the city. Proposal No. 370, sponsored by Councilwoman Sherron Franklin, would place restrictions on ownership of “dangerous” dogs while also increasing the fines possible for owner negligence, without banning any specific breed of dog.

After months of discussion and revision, the Rules Committee of the City Council approved final wording on the new city ordinance that will impose restrictions on dangerous dogs and impose higher penalties for violations last week. The full City Council will vote on the measure on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Franklin originally introduced the proposal last year, but it was dropped for lack of support. She introduced the measure again in June, following several high profile dog attacks. While some in city government, including Mayor Bart Peterson, were encouraging council members to ban certain breeds of dogs from being owned as pets in the city, Franklin and many other counselors continued to find a solution that combined public safety, responsible pet ownership and the ability for residents to choose their breed of family dog.

Opponents of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) are relieved that the City Council has chosen to hold irresponsible pet owners accountable, rather than outlawing specific breeds of dogs. Over the past several months, many animal advocacy groups have urged lawmakers to instead consider “dangerous dog legislation,” identifying behavior and not breed as the potential danger to communities.

According to Stacy Coleman, president of Indy Pit Crew, a non-profit group that advocates for responsible pet ownership of pit bulls, this latest version of the proposed law change is one the animal rights community can support.

“With the proposed changes, irresponsible owners are targeted, not the dogs,” Coleman says. “There is no breed specific language, which is important since all breeds of dogs can be dangerous. The changes clearly place the responsibility where it needs to be, on the people who have chosen to abuse, abandon or neglect their dogs to the point they become a risk to public safety. Getting a dog is a conscious decision. It is impossible to accidentally get a dog. If a person makes the choice to get a dog, they MUST be held responsible for that dog’s care and behavior.”

Dangerous dog legislation (DDL), according to its supporters, is cheaper and more effective than breed specific legislation. By identifying and specifying behaviors of the dogs, and holding irresponsible pet owners responsible for the actions of their animals, DDL proponents believe the unwarranted bias against pit bulls will put the focus on the behavior rather than the breed.

Any dog that has aggressively bitten, attacked, endangered or has inflicted serious injury on a person on public or private property is the primary definition of a “dangerous dog.”

Additionally, any dog that has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner’s property or has knowingly been used primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting or is a dog trained for dog fighting could be deemed “dangerous” in the new type of legislation.

Less than 2 percent of all dogs properly identified in dog attacks have been found to be pit bulls. However, in 90 percent of the cases the attacking dog was found to be not neutered (or spayed) and/or the dog was found to be mistreated by its owners. For these reasons, animal advocates believe holding owners accountable for the humane treatment, containment and control of their dogs is the only effective method to reduce the incidences of canine aggression. And it is dogs’ behavior, not their breed, that could get them in trouble.

“This is a big improvement over what we had before,” according to Coleman. “The city will now have tools to address dangerous dogs before injuries occur. In the past, the ordinances were reactive, not any more.”

The full City-County Council is scheduled to vote on the dangerous dogs law at 7 p.m., Nov. 13 in the council chamber. A copy of the ordinance can be found at www.indy gov.org/eGov/Council. For more information on Indy Pit Crew go to www.indypitcrew.org.




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