Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Secret, Shameful Act

It was a secret, shameful act
Protecting Dangerous Dogs

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Revised: Sept 24, 2012; 20:09 GMT

When An Act further regulating Animal Control was signed into law by Gov Patrick on August 2nd Massachusetts became the thirteenth state to prohibit Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Advocates of fighting breeds from across the country have celebrated but municipal leaders in Massachusetts expressed shock at news of the signing.

There is no doubt that well-intentioned legislators signed off on this bill. Would they have passed it if they had known that in the 30 year period from 1982 through 2012 pit bulls (and close pit bull mixes) accounted for at least 217 deaths in the US and Canada, nearly 50% of the total canine homicides?* Certainly this would have given many of the legislators pause.

Questions about the inclusion of the anti-BSL provision have surfaced in the days since it was signed. A legislative history of the bill offers important clues.
  • Sept 2010: S.1033 is introduced by Senator Patricia Jehlen
  • March 19: (All subsequent dates are 2012) S.1033 is drafted as S.2184
  • March 22: Senate adopts eight amendments and passes bill; drafted as S.2192
  • March 26: Referred to the House committee on Ways and Means as House Bill 4266
  • April 19: MSPCA announces that S.2192 has been merged with a domestic violence bill
Then, after three months will little or no action, in the final days of the legislative session:
  • July 26: The House adopts amendments 1, 2, 3, 7, and 8; the Amendments page lists the text of all amendments except Amendment 8
  • July 30: the bill is referred back to the Senate one day before the legislative session is scheduled to end -- actually the last full day of legislative activity; the Senate Calendar for July 30th makes no mention of S.2192; the Senate suspends normal procedural rules; the Senate concurs with the House amendments and enacts the bill.
  • July 31; No formal calendar for the Senate; Legislative session ends
  • August 2: S 2192 signed into law by Gov. Patrick.
Also on August 2nd, the website posts a bulletin with the following note:
The most recent amendment to S.2192 . . . contains two clauses that would prohibit BSL
We may never know with any degree of certainty the precise chronology of this bill, or who lobbied the sponsors. We may never know exactly when the anti-BSL provisions were written into the bill. The bill languished for months, years even, with little or no apparent action. Then suddenly it flew to the Governor's desk in a frenzy of activity in the final days of the session. What is clear is that the people who should have been stakeholders in this process, the municipalities charged with protecting their MVAC and their citizens, were excluded from the process.

Several cities continue to investigate remedies to S.2194, but the remedy must serve all the municipalities and citizens of the commonwealth. It is never to late for the public servants to correct an error.

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* Statistics are from Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here.

S.2192, An Act further regulating animal control

Brockton police shoot charging pit bull, Enterprise News
State law trumps Worcester pit bull regs, Worcester Telegram
New state law could maul Lowell's pit bull ordinance, Lowell Sun
Mayor Menino: Animal-rights law . . . ., Boston Herald
Violent MA pit bulls now Schenectady's problem, Albany Times Union
Hundreds of pit bull attacks listed in Boston, Boston Herald
City Leaders Outraged, WBZ CBS

MA Legal Blogs:
Pit Bull Ordinances Nullified Under New State Law
The Law and Pit Bull Attacks and Pit Bull Ordinances

Effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in decreasing the incidence of dog-bite injury hospitalisations in people in the Canadian province of Manitoba

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks in the US

Send comments and corrections to safeisland911 [at]

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