BSL Rears its Ugly Head in MN

February 21, 2008 at 12:41 am 11 comments

From an AKC Legislative Alert Wednesday, February 20, 2008:

Minnesota House File 3245, sponsored by Representative Dennis Ozment, seeks to lift the state’s current prohibition on breed-specific legislation. If passed and signed into law, the changes imposed by this bill would have a profound impact on all dog owners in Minnesota. It is imperative that all dog owners and breeders in Minnesota contact the members of the House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee to express their opposition to the bill as currently written.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) supports reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to govern the ownership of dogs. We support laws that: establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as “dangerous” based on stated, measurable actions; impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners; and establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs proven to be dangerous. The AKC strongly opposes any legislation that determines a dog to be “dangerous” based on specific breeds or phenotypic classes of dogs. As currently worded, HF 3245 conflicts with AKC’s reasonable, non-discriminatory dangerous dog position. Specifically, it would:

* Establish a task force to study and recommend a uniform, statewide, mandatory system of dog owner and dog obedience education training according to commonly accepted standards and best practices for each breed or mixed breed of dog.

* Allow all statutory or home rule charter cities, or counties, to recommend to the task force specific breeds of dogs to be designated as dangerous or potentially dangerous based solely on the specific breed of dog.

For a copy of the bill, click here   WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:Contact the members of the Minnesota House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee who will consider this bill. Let them know that, if passed as currently written, HF 3245 will result in unfair and discriminatory dangerous dog policy in Minnesota. For some EXCELLENT tips on how to write your letter please check out our friend Wallace the Pitbull’s website.  

Find out who your legislator is and how to contact him/her here: 

http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/districtfinder.asp


We strongly suggest that you take the time to write a letter and send it via the mail rather than to send an email.  Many of these people receive hundreds of email posts a day and, frankly, email is a lot easier to ignore than a written letter is.

UPDATE:  The bill was returned to its author on March 3, 2008.  We’ll continue to monitor it’s status, but hope that it has gone to bed for good.

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Entry filed under: bsl, dog training, dogs, minnesota, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls. Tags: , , , , , , .

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. BSL Rears its Ugly Head in MN at Dog and Puppy Stories  |  February 21, 2008 at 4:10 am

    [...] SmartDogs created an interesting post today (BSL Rears its Ugly Head in MN).Read a snippet here, but follow the link for the whole thing.It is imperative that all dog owners and breeders in Minnesota contact the members of the House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee to express their opposition to the bill as currently written. The American Kennel Club (AKC) … [...]

  • 2. Caveat  |  February 21, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I don’t have a problem with the promotion of obedience training (I do it all the time) but trying to legislate it is the road to disaster.

    As for training specific to each breed (or even better, the over 80% of dogs who are mixed breeds) makes absolutely no sense. Training is not tailored for breeds the same methods work on all dogs.

    It’s actually laughable that people who know so little about dogs that they believe there are dangerous breeds, rather than dangerous individual owners, think they can mandate something so pointless as specific requirements for each shape/size/colour of dog. What do they recommend for Brussels Griffons, for example? Greyhounds? Saint Bernards?

    It’s funny, in a black humour kind of way.

    Now, get your friend Wallace out to the Legislature and show them what’s what.

  • 3. Fuzzy Logic  |  February 21, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    I’m with Caveat.. how on earth would you pick a training method specific to a breed? I have three bullmastiffs.. I have to train each one of them differently…

    doh

  • 4. Dennis Ozment  |  February 21, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    The bill, HF 3245, was introduced by me at the request of a 14 year old student and animal lover in my area who had this idea on how to help prevent attacks by dogs owned by untrained adults. The student presented it at the Youth in Government Sessions this year and found out how difficult it is to try and deal with animal legislation.
    I think the intent is to focus on dogs that have a history of attacking, regardless of the breed. And the approach is to require that the owner and dog be required to pass appropriate training to avoid future problems. The student did not want to see any breeds arbitrarily banned, as some other legislation proposes, so the thought was to require owners to be prepared to deal with the traits of animals likely to need special attention, before the animal is blamed for attacking humans or other animals.
    I don’t think that any references to breed specific approaches are major issues to the student. It was just a method of addressing the concern.
    Thank you for posting our proposal and for all of your comments. I will alert the student to your interest and assist in the learning and legislative learning process. I look forward to your suggested changes. Thank you again,
    Dennis Ozment State Rep. Dist. 37B

  • 5. Caveat  |  February 22, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Mr Ozment,

    The promotion of obedience training, especially for novice owners, is a very worthwhile idea – if it is applied across-the-board.

    There are ways of detecting problem owners in advance of nasty incidents and ways of creating a culture of responsibility without focusing on the red herring, the breed (or in the majority of pet homes, mixed breed) of the dog itself.

    There are no breeds which are inherently dangerous. There are some dogs which are better left to the more experienced – this is a matter of matching temperament. There is more variation among individuals within a breed than there is between breeds.

    One exception is that field or working lines, as opposed to conformation lines of some breeds – Labs, spaniels, small terriers, for example – are not really suited to the average pet owner due to high drive and exercise requiirements.

    One way to weed out the sociable from non-sociable is to promote the Canine Good Citizen test offered by the AKC. This test is not difficult and covers most of what every pet owner should expect to work towards. Here are some details:

    http://www.akc.org/events/cgc/index.cfm

    The best way to control negligent owners is to enforce existing regulations – licensing, leashing in public, etc – on a zero-tolerance basis. If the money raised through licensing and leashing is directed into an account for animal services, rather than just general revenue, it can be used to build services that are not only state-of-the-art, but are entirely funded by pet owners, not taxpayers.

    Calgary, Alberta has an enviable program and its architect, Mr Bill Bruce, gives presentations to jurisdictions who may wish to implement something similar. He requires an invitation to give his presentation.

    Here’s a link to the main web page (I don’t want to publish Bill’s personal contact info on the web)

    http://content.calgary.ca/CCA/City+Hall/Business+Units/Animal+and+Bylaw+Services/Animal+Services/index.htm

    Don’t let the fact that this is a Canadian program turn you off. I’ve found that dogs and dog owners are pretty much alike all over the world. A tiny minority of uncaring people should not colour people’s impression of the vast majority who hold up their end of the bargain.

    Best of luck with your revisions.

    Selma Mulvey
    Ontario, Canada

  • 6. Labradoodle breeder  |  February 24, 2008 at 1:42 am

    hi,
    Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment.I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren’t certain we knew better. They fight for honor at the first challenge, make love with no moral restraint, and they do not for all their marvelous instincts appear to know about death. Being such wonderfully uncomplicated beings, they need us to do their worrying.

  • 7. Audie's Gramma  |  February 28, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Mr. Ozment, are you actually saying that this bill is worthy because it was proposed by a child? Is that how laws that affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens are to be evaluated?

    That’s an interesting twist on the ad hominem fallacy — “this is a good idea because someone with absolutely no qualifications or expertise thought it up.”

    Because a child thought it up, dogs are to be declared dangerous and sentenced to death based solely on someone’s (whose?) belief that they are a member of a “breed?”

    As for the “obedience education” portion of the proposal — I have been a professional dog trainer for 17 years. It is difficult enough to get good results from students who have sought out my instruction on their own volition, and willingly paid for the privilege. Forcing pet owners to endure a government-designed and mandated curriculum in order to save their innocuous pets from state confiscation and execution — sure, that’s going to work well!

    Who will design this special race-based curriculum and anoint instructors? You? A minor child? A brand-new state bureaucracy?

    Finally, you say that “you think the intent is” — and then state something that is not in the text of the bill. Brilliant! You are the sponsor of the bill, but you “think” the intent is something other than what it clearly says? If that’s the intent, why not write it that way?

  • 8. Maryna Ozuna  |  February 28, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    In an increasingly urbanized society, the dog/human interface can at times seem like an incomprehensible border zone. But responsible dog trainers, and historic organizations like the AKC with a century of experience behind them have been looking closely to define problem areas and define solutions. One thing that everyone seems to agree upon is that owners need to take responsibility for their dogs, hence dangerous dog versions of legislation that target the irresponsible owners, not the dogs, who may or may not have ever been taught what was acceptable behavior living in this people world. Targeting the problem with global, generic solutions is like saying all parents are bad, therefore all child bearing should be banned. Dog violence is not acceptable, and trainers work tirelessly day after day clarifying with owners and dogs how to create balanced, happy dogs. But dog violence is only and ever a product of people stupidity. So where should the focus be? I suggest that reasonably constructed, dangerous dog statutes, with clear, tiered structures, and simple, but strong enforcement measures, are the route to go. BSL legislation is nothing but an insult to responsible dog owners.

  • 9. Margot Woods  |  February 28, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    “Establish a task force to study and recommend a uniform, statewide, mandatory system of dog owner and dog obedience education training according to commonly accepted standards and best practices for each breed or mixed breed of dog.”

    I’ve been a professional dog trainer for more than 40 years and for the life of me I don’t understand what the above is intended to accomplish. Then I went on and read the comments and come to find out it was written by a 14 year old girl!

    I truly don’t know whether to laugh or cry. How nice that a 14 year old is taking an interest in learning about our form of government. How completely and totally frightening that an elected official of the state of Minnesota would actually propose such language in a bill with intent have it passed into state law.

    While I am all for seriously encouraging good, solid obedience training and insisting on good manners; requiring via a state law something that will quickly be taken over by those who wish to eliminate all pets from our hearth and home is definitely NOT the way to get the job done.

    If further research is to be done I would suggest you contact the International Association of Canine Professionals for some suggestions. http://www.dogpro.org

    Margot Woods, IACP CDT
    Laurel, MD http://applewoodsdogtraining.com
    International Association of Canine Professionals #1043P Board of Directors

  • 10. Jill  |  February 28, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Mr. Ozment,

    The amended bill now reads: A statutory or home rule charter city, or a county, may recommend to the task force created in section 10 that specific breeds of dogs be designated as dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs based solely on the specific breed of the dog. The recommendation must be made no later than June 30, 2008. Ordinances inconsistent with this subdivision are void.

    As a professional dog trainer and former political staffer (press secretary and communications advisor to the Minister of Labor), I know a little about both sides of this issue.

    To declare that you are addressing the problem of “dangerous dogs” by identifying specific breeds as dangerous, regardless of behavior, is specious at best. It is a politically convenient way to appear to be doing *something*, without addressing the actual problem in any concrete manner.

    I will take you at your word that the original intent of the bill was to identify dangerous dogs and promote obedience training. And I think highly of you for coming on a public message board to explain your point of view — few politicians would do so. However, the language in the amended version of the bill (which was changed from “may not adopt an ordinance to regulate dangerous dogs based on breed”) does *not* follow with your original intent.

    Please ensure that a qualified member of the dog training community be included on your panel. Of the various dog training organizations available, I would recommend either the International Association of Canine Professionals, which requires references before membership is granted, or the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, which requires an entrance exam. Other organizations require nothing more than an application and a check.

    Minnesota has a remarkable opportunity here to propose and pass meaningful dog legislation that will promote responsible ownership and safe dogs in the community. Look to Calgary, Canada for a fine example of how a properly conceived program can actually turn into a revenue generator for the government. Do not squander your chance to do something positive for responsible dog owners everywhere.

    Thank you.

  • 11. PJ Stull  |  February 29, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Rep. Ozment,

    While I commend your support of education in your chosen field and the encouragement of a young mind; I am afraid what you have submitted in HF 3245 has already proven not to work in other countries. I am a founding member and board of director of CPAC – Canine Political Action Corps. CPAC works on legislation that affects the business of dog trainers and groomers in the US. This bill, as written, will affect many professional trainers in the state of MN. While we fully promote training of all dogs, not specific breeds, Sec. 8 [347.526] Training Specifications is already in place within many canine professional organizations. Please check into IACP – International Association of Canine Professionals and you will see a guide to training standards on their website. You may also contact them via phone at 407-469-2008 or by email at iacp@mindspring.com.

    One of our Board of Directors has tried to contact you on this via phone many times and have yet to receive a return call. We would be more than willing to help you with this bill. We would like to also be part of this task force that will be setting up standards for training.

    Thank you for your time,
    PJ Stull
    Canine Political Action Corps
    pj@caninepac.org
    866-465-CPAC (2722)
    http://www.caninepac.org

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