In Michigan's capital city tonight, Lansing's dog-loving residents came forth by the dozen to voice their concerns over the possibility that the Lansing City Council’s Committee on Public Safety might draft a vicious dog ordinance containing breed specific language.
Breed specific legislation (BSL) is on the rise, nation-wide. Many communities have enacted varying degrees of breed specific legislation in the hope of reducing the number of dog attacks. BSL is breed discriminatory legislation that targets specific breeds of dogs (or mixes of those breeds) believed to be more vicious than others. Targeted are breeds such as American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, English Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Chows, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, and others. Advocates argue that the vast number of targeted dogs are non-offenders, and that it is unfair to punish non-offenders for the deeds of the offenders. BSL is expensive for communities to enforce, requires subjective identification of breed type, and causes those who own these breeds to go into hiding. Advocates also make the point that if existing confinement laws are not followed that it is unlikely that additional laws will be any better kept. Typical legislation ranges from outright bans to mandatory sterilization, muzzling, higher insurance costs, etc.
The advocates' concern is not without justification. Mayor Virg Bernero has repeatedly expressed his concern about the threat that vicious dogs represent to Lansing residents. February 25, he voiced his concerns to the council about the dog problem and residents' fears. "We have a serious problem with vicious dogs," he said. "We have people in this city living in fear."
Mayor Bernero also said, "I know some people don’t like it when I say the truth about pit bulls. But they seem to be the ones we have the most problems with."
“I leave it to the council the best way to write the ordinance,” he said.
It would appear that the efforts of those who braved the cold tonight have met with some success. An announcement on the Voiceless MI Facebook page tonight says in part, "YOUR VOICE WAS HEARD!!! The Lansing City Council meeting to discuss a dangerous dog ordinance and possibly breed restrictions, went very well today! Kudos to the Council President and Vice President for seeing the "pit" falls of breed ordinances. At this point, they indicated they have no intentions of making anything breed-specific.