Michigan Senate Votes Down Breed-Specific Dog Regulations
In a recent 22-13 vote, the Michigan Senate has approved a bill banning breed-specific dog regulations. This bill, Senate Bill 741, states that local governments are not allowed to enact or enforce ordinances, policies, resolutions, or rules that regulate dogs based on its breed or perceived breed. However, this bill still allows local governments which apply to all dogs and dog owners in general, such as leash laws. The bill is now headed to the Michigan House to be voted on there.
Many Michigan cities have breed-specific dog regulations in one form or another. These sorts of rules most commonly apply to pit bulls, but they can also be apply to other breeds that are often seen as aggressive or dangerous, like Rottweilers, German shepherds, and akitas. Specific laws can be very different from city to city. While many cities have an outright ban on pit bulls, others simply consider them dangerous or place restrictions on owning them. Hazel Park, for example, requires pit bull owners to have secure fencing for their yards and provide proof of homeowners/renters insurance as well as proof of a behavior assessment. If you have any questions about dog bite laws and regulations where you live, contact your city hall or a dog bite lawyer.
This bill passed the Michigan senate even in light of several other serious dog attacks around Michigan. In December 2017, a Kalamazoo toddler was attacked by a pit bull and a Flint woman was left with severe facial injuries when she was attacked by two pit bulls in September 2017.
If this bill is passed and signed into law, Michigan will become one of at least 20 other states that ban these sorts of breed-specific dog laws. Supporters of the bill feel like breed-specific laws are ultimately ineffective at preventing dog bites. Dr. Emily Patterson-Kane of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) told the Detroit Free Press that a dog’s breed is not the strongest predictor of whether or not a dog is going to be dangerous. The AVMA, along with many other animal welfare organizations like the Michigan Humane Society, point out that any breed of dog can potentially bite or be aggressive and support generic, non-breed-specific dangerous dog laws which focus on irresponsible owners.
Breed-specific dog laws can also be difficult to enforce. Alma, Michigan has restrictions on pit bulls and in a 2010 article for MLive, Phillip Moore, City Manager of Alma, stated while he believes the law deters people from bringing dangerous dogs into the city, he acknowledged that enforcing the rule isn’t easy. In many cases, police officers aren’t aware of where pit bulls are and only become aware of them after there has been an incident involving one. The AMVA also points out that determining a dog’s primary breed just by looking at it can be extremely difficult, even for people who have a lot of experience working with dogs.