Wednesday, June 19, 2013


. . . provided that no program shall regulate these dogs in a manner that is specific as to breed.
California Food and Agricultural Code, Section 31683

. . . except that no municipality shall adopt breed-specific dog ordinances;
Connecticut Public Act No. 13-103

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Preemption: The superceding of any lower jurisdiction's law in the event of a law on topic extant within a higher jurisdiction.
Duhaime Legal Dictionary

* * * * * 
Revised: June 20, 2013; 23:42 GMT
Correction: June 22, 2013; 14:34 GMT
Correction: June 23, 2013; 18:58 GMT
Revised: June 24, 2013; 20:43 GMT
Revised: June 25, 2013; 16:06 GMT
Revised: March 21, 2014; 18:24 GMT
Judythe Coffman, California Federation of Dog Clubs
Ralph Slater, Connecticut Dog Federation
Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs & Responsible Dog Owners
   And dozens of additional dog federations

In 1989 California became the first state to prohibit their cities and towns from passing Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). The path to preemption followed a long and convoluted route.

On March 17, 1987, the San Joaquin valley city of Livingston passed landmark BSL legislation. This ordinance galvanized the opponents of BSL, including Sharon Coleman.1  In 1988 Senator Torres introduced SB 1741, intending to tighten regulations on vicious dogs and stop the escalating number of dog attacks. After several rounds of concessions the bill that emerged looked less like protection for the public than a pit bull owners' bill of rights (Sacramento Bee, June 29, 1988). The Bee editorial urged the legislature to table the bill.

In 1989 Senator Torres again sponsored dangerous dog legislation (SB 428), this time with a BSL provision included. During the protracted negotiations the bill took a U-turn; the BSL was dropped and instead a provision which preempted BSL was inserted into the California Agricultural Code. SB 428 ultimately became law and made California the first state in the Union to preempt BSL. Twenty-four years later three states adopted BSL preemptory laws in rapid succession: Massachusetts (Oct 31, 2012), Nevada (May 24, 2013), and Connecticut (June 3, 2013). These states became the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth states to adopt similar legislation.

In 1989 it was the agricultural and dog breeder groups in California that believed restrictions on specific breeds would be ruinous to their business and lobbied for BSL preemption; protecting pit bulls was apparently not a core motive then, as it is now. Breeders and other canine federations continue to oppose BSL but leadership on preemption has transitioned to animal welfare groups such as HSUS, Best Friends, the AVMA, and local pit bull advocacy groups. These groups are far better positioned financially and strategically to manage protracted national campaigns.

While there have been setbacks in the campaign to preempt BSL, notably the debacles in Florida (November 2012) and Maryland (April 2013), it is clear that these groups are running a 50-state campaign to preempt BSL  legislation throughout America.

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It's not unusual for new legislation to have unintended consequences, but the results of BSL preemption would have been inconceivable to the breeders who lobbied for the original legislation. The Canine-Cultural Landscape in America has become unrecognizable in the years since the first preemption law. In 1987 pit bulls & close pit bull mixes were under 2% of the dog population, but were already 5% of the dogs admitted to shelters. Human fatalities from dog attacks averaged under two a year in the US, with pit bulls accounting for one of those. No dog adopted from a shelter (or rescue) was known to have ever killed anyone.

Pit bulls and their mixes are now nearly 5% of the (much larger) dog population and comprise about 30% of the dogs admitted to shelters. Human fatalities from pit bull attacks now average nearly 30 a year.

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How has this come to pass? Breeders and agricultural interests, the AKC and dog federations, the animal welfare movement, the AVMA, the no-kill movement and the rescue movements each have their own agenda, and some of these groups are bitter enemies. Yet they have forged a marriage of convenience on the niche issue of BSL preemption.

But what have these groups achieved with their opposition to BSL? It is difficult to imagine how the AKC and the breeders have benefited; registrations of purebred dogs have been dropping for the last decade,2 while pit bulls, nearly all of them bred by back-yard breeders, continue to proliferate and displace other dogs in family homes.

It's equally difficult to understand the motives of the animal welfare movement, or how they have benefited themselves or the livestock and companion animals they are charged with caring for.  The HSUS and ASPCA have been plagued by financial irregularities and they have resorted to deceptive tactics in their advocacy of fighting breeds. At times it seems their core mission is to enhance their own brand, rather than the stewardship of our more vulnerable animal companions. There is no greater danger to the animal welfare movement than its own advocacy of pit bulls.3

The no-kill and rescue movements appear to be the big winners, at least for the moment. They have lowered euthanasia rates and moved tens of thousands of dogs, many of them pit bulls, some of them by airplane on chartered flights, from the south to the north. But the success of the no-kill/rescue movement, if that's how one views it, has also come at the expense of the legitimate dog breeders; the dogs that are shuffled around the country and placed in family homes are displacing purebreds as well as the traditional American mutt from family homes.

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California is now realizing the effects of living in a state that preempted BSL 24 years ago. On Monday, June 17th, California witnessed its 4th fatal pit bull attack of the year when 6-year old Nephi Selu was killed by the family-owned pit bull.

Nephi lived in his grandparent's home with his extended family, which included his parents, his aunt and uncle and his cousins, and their two pit bulls. The dogs were owned by Nephi's uncle, who serves as a police officer in San Mateo.

San Mateo passed the nation's first mandatory spay/neuter legislation in 1990. Sharon Coleman (mentioned above), who lives in the San Mateo area, joined with others to form The Animal Council (TAC). According to Ms Coleman, TAC was formed to respond to the San Mateo legislation, but the organization has also long been opposed to BSL. Ms. Coleman has served as president of The Animal Council since its inception.

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1 "I got involved more actively in 1986 with breed specific legislation." Sharon Coleman, online interview

2 PETA and the world of dog politics, LA Times, February 10, 2013
   Op-Ed by John Homans, author of What's a Dog For
Rescue dogs, which are mostly mutts, have never been more popular, while the American Kennel Club, arbiter and protector of purebred dogs, has seen its membership and registrations drop for a decade or more. The AKC brand has been partly hollowed out . . . . 
3 Attributed to Merritt Clifton, editor of Animals 24-7, on numerous occasions.

Breed Specific Laws: A Basic Primer, The Animal Council
Connecticut joins state ranks preempting breed-specific laws, NCRC

Related Material:
Overview of "breed specific" laws, Kenneth Phillips, Dog Bite Law

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Florida Hell Week

Revised: June 6, 2013; 17:05 GMT
Revised: June 10, 2013; 16:25 GMT
Revised: June 15, 2013; 17:44 GMT

The Orlando Sentinel recently offered quest column space to two leading figures on the contentious issue of pit bulls. Writing on behalf of pit bulls and against Breed Specific Regulations (BSL) was Donald Cleary* of the National Canine Research Council (NCRC).  Writing on behalf of the victims of pit bull attacks and advocating for common-sense public safety regulations was Colleen Lynn, founder of Dogsbite.

The guest columns were published on May 24th, and came on the heels of a 72-hour period which witnessed a series of pit bull attacks across Florida. Among the recent attacks in Florida are the five listed below.

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Hell Week

May 24, 2013; Holly Hill (Volusia County) FL
2 Pit Bulls Attack 3 Men Within 2 Hours in Separate Florida Incidents
   4:00 a.m. Billy Boles, age 42; near State Avenue and Walker Street
   5:20 a.m. Anthony Lewis, age 44; Flomich Street and toward State Avenue
   5:30 a.m. Frank Andrsano, age 69
Michael Berkert [the owner of the dog] said the dog has never been aggressive and he and his twin brother hope to get their pet back.

May 23, 2013; Geneva (Seminole County) FL
Pit bull mix attacks, injures 89-year-old woman
Seminole County Fire Rescue officials said Betty Meitzler suffered severe bite wounds to her skull, arm, legs and neck, adding that she suffered "massive tissue loss." She was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center in serious condition. Last month, the same dog attacked Ms. Meitzler's daughter. The dog was impounded by the county after the initial attack, then released back to its owner prior to the attack on the elder Ms Meitzler.

May 22, 2013; Hialeah (Miami-Dade County) FL
Bloody Scene After pit bull Attacks Hialeah Man's Cat
Luciano Molina forced to kill pit bull with kitchen knife inside his own home.

Recently in Florida:

July 3, Dania Beach (Broward County) FL
Pit bull attacks 13-month-old baby

June 20, St Petersburg (Pinellas County) FL
Dogs attack 4-year-old girl and her father
Faucette told police he ran into the bedroom and found his daughter bleeding from the face. When he grabbed her, the dogs attacked him.

June 15, Holiday (Pasco County) FL
Pit bull attacks 10-month old infant in Holiday, FL
. . . they found the dog biting the baby on the head and shoulder.

May 5th, 2013; Bunnell (Flagler County) FL
5 Pit Bulls Maul Florida Mother
Sheriff's deputies say Brandi Bookamer suffered "heavy wounds" and was "barely moving" when emergency responders arrived. She was first taken by ambulance to a local hospital and later airlifted to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach for treatment. The owners of the dogs were located in the neighborhood and Flagler County Animal Control impounded the dogs, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Flagler County Sheriff's Lt. Bob Weber confirmed the dogs were pit bulls.

April 28, Bradenton (Manatee County) FL
6-Year-Old Life-flighted Following Pit Bull Attack
According to the police report, the boy's stepmother was doing laundry on the back porch of a house located at 1104 36th Ave. W. when she walked into the kitchen and saw the dog biting the young victim.

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SRUV will dispute only one of Mr Cleary's arguments: his main one that BSL is not working. Over 500 municipalities protect their cities with some form of BSL, which might include mandated spay/neutering, microchipping, muzzling in public, or in its most extreme form: outright bans. Denver, Colorado and Miami-Dade County both passed ordinances restricting pit bulls in 1989; neither city has experienced a pit bull fatality since their bans took effect. During the same period 18 people were killed by pit bulls elsewhere in Florida and over 250 humans were killed by pit bulls in the US. What further proof is required to prove that BSL is effective?

Pit bull advocates often mention that BSL will cause the mass slaughter of pit bulls. Denver is among the U.S. cities with the fewest pit bulls impounded and killed per 1,000 human residents; Miami-Dade ranks second only to Denver. New York City and San Francisco, both of which also have variations of BSL, rank third and fourth among major U.S. cities for the lowest pit bull euthanasia rates. **

Mr Cleary offers numerous arguments in his column, many of which are irrelevant or misleading. He mentions the ban of German Shepherds (GSDs) into Australia in 1929, which he derides as heavy-handed government imposed BSL. Mr Cleary neglects to mention the circumstances under which the import ban was imposed. Australia was a sheep raising country then as it is now, and the flocks suffered heavy depredations by dingos. Farmers were concerned that GSD's would also become predators.  GSDs were very different from the wonderful dogs we know today, and were known as Alsatian Wolf Dogs or Wolfhounds. The Western Australia Pastoralists and Graziers Society and other agricultural groups petitioned for the import ban, believing it was necessary to protect their livestock.

The great failing of Mr Cleary's argument is that he fails to respond to the Florida pit bull attacks, or indeed to the evidence of disproportionate pit bull attacks across the country, and instead offers platitudes about the implementation of responsible pet-ownership models. Until advocates of fighting breeds seriously address the growing number of pit bull attacks on humans, livestock, and on our more vulnerable animal companions, without resorting to banalities about responsible or irresponsible owners, their arguments against BSL will not be credible.

* * * * *

Related Posts:
* By Donald Cleary, By Donald Cleary II

** The information on euthanasia rates is from Pit bulls and Political Recklessness, by Merritt Clifton.

Orlando Sentinel Forum on Pit Bulls
The Front Burner: Should pit bulls be banned?
   Introduction by Orlando Sentinel Editorial writer Darryl E. Owens
   Orlando Sentinel, May 24, 2013
BSL: Not new and not working, By Donald Cleary, Guest columnist
  Orlando Sentinel, May 24, 2013
Banning pit bulls saves lives and protects the innocent, By Colleen Lynn, Guest Columnist
   Orlando Sentinel, May 24, 2013

Statistics in SRUV are from the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here. This page may also include information from Dogsbite and Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Other Reading:
The History of the German Shepherd Dog in Australia
Outcry over proposed pit bull ban leads Broward commissioner to withdraw proposal
   Sun-Sentinel, February 26, 2013

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

By Donald Cleary: II

Pamela Maria Devitt was attacked by four pit bulls on May 9th, 2013. The comment below is excerpted from Murder charges in fatal dog attacks extremely rare (LA Times, May 30).

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When attacks do occur, they tend to be in outlying locations where “people live to avoid others,” Cleary said. Most dogs involved in attacks aren’t family pets, and have usually been isolated from family interaction, as seems to be the case with the Littlerock pit bulls, he said.
Donald Cleary, LA Times May 30, 2013
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This statement is without foundation. Fatal & disfiguring dog attacks, plotted on a map (as Colleen Lynn of has done with fatalities -- see below), occur in almost a mirror image to U.S. human population distribution. The overwhelming majority involve dogs who have in fact been kept as family pets.

Merritt Clifton
Personal correspondence to the editors of the Los Angeles Times

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State pit bull fatality maps (
California fatal pit bull maulings (

LA Times Articles:
Fatal dog attack latest in series of maulings in Antelope Valley
   Los Angeles Times, May 31st (6:54 pm)
Pit bull owner charged with murder had dogs put down in '06
   Los Angeles Times, May 31st (3:13 pm)
Littlerock residents carried weapons in case of dogs
   Los Angeles Times, May 31st (7:50 am)
Should pit bull owner face murder charge?
   Los Angeles Times, May 30th (10:45 pm)
Dog owner charged with murder in woman's mauling
   Los Angeles Times, May 30th (6:42 pm)
Pit bull attack: Husband of victim haunted by dogs' 'brutality'
   Los Angeles Times, May 30th (5:51 pm)
Pit bull owner charged with murder accused in prior attack)
   Los Angeles Times, May 30th (4:23 pm
Murder charges in fatal dog attacks extremely rare
   Los Angeles Times, May 30th (2:27 pm)
Pit bull owner charged with murder in fatal mauling
   Los Angeles Times, May 30th (11:39 am)
Where my dog's at
   LA Times, May 19, 2013
Hey haters, people love dogs
   LA Times, May 17, 2013
LA County's Dilemma
   LA Times, May 16, 2013
The Gift of a great dog
   LA Times, May 16, 2013
Pit bulls in trouble again
    LA Times, May 10, 2013

By Steve Lopez:
The tale of a rescue dog has a tail-wagging ending
   LA Times, May 11, 2013
The fast-moving tale of a rescue dog named Ginger
   LA Times, May 4, 2013

Biting back at pit bulls
   LA Times, August 25, 1987

Statistics are from the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here. This page may also include information from Dogsbite and Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks


Monday, June 3, 2013

Kansas to Kalamazoo

[This post has been archived and is not supported. 07/06/15]

A 2-day-old infant suffered a partial amputation of her leg by one of her father's five pit bulls in Coffeyville, Kansas on May 23, 2013. Ariona Frostad was initially taken to a local hospital with life threatening injuries, then flown to a Wichita hospital for treatment.

The attack in Coffeyville echoes earlier attacks on children, especially the fatal attack on a 10-day old infant in Michigan. The February 19, 2011 attack on Darius Tillman has become emblematic of pit bull attacks on children due to the unusual circumstances surrounding the event.

Foremost among those circumstances is the city of Kalamazoo, where the attack occurred. Kalamazoo is the home of the United Kennel Club, which was founded in 1898 specifically to register fighting breeds in America.  Second, the attacking dog had been adopted from the city shelter. And third, the Prosecuting Attorney decided against bringing charges of child endangerment against the parents of the newborn.
A Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety report obtained by the Kalamazoo Gazette under the state Freedom of Information Act shows that detectives sought charges of involuntary manslaughter . . . against Darius’ 25-year-old mother, Mallory Wildig, but the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office declined to authorize charges.
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The recent attack in Coffeyville highlights Kansas as a nexus of dogfighting, pit bull rescue, and pit bull attacks. There were 22 fatal pit bull attacks last year (2012), the last of which, on December 13, 2012, occurred in suburban Topeka. The dog that attacked 2 year old Savannah May Edwards was adopted from a rescue or shelter in the Topeka area. The DA in that case also declined to bring charges against the parents of Savannah. The rescue or shelter that adopted the dog out has apparently not been held accountable.

It is no coincidence that Kansas has an abundance of pit bull rescues, including MABBR and Gamedog Guardian. Dogfighting continues to flourish in Kansas and illicit breeders supply a surplus of dogs, many of which pass through a rescue or shelter. Two months before the Coffeyville attack, on March 25th, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom announced a series of dogfighting raids and arrests that covered three states over several days. The raids were conducted on sites in Kansas, Missouri, and Texas, and suspects from nine states were arrested.

Subsequent arrests as far away as California were associated with the same dogfighting ring and the April 5th  triple homicide at a pit bull breeding and fighting location in Idaho may also be related to the arrests.

Over 120 pit bulls were taken into custody during the raids, and additional dogs may have been abandoned by the suspects arrested in California. Tim Rickey of the ASPCA said The goal is to rehabilitate as many of the dogs as possible and prepare them for adoption.

Adopting out another 100+ fighting dogs in Kansas will endanger another 100 Kansas children.

* * * * * 

The parents of the mauled Coffeyville infant, Sorena and Justin Frostad, spoke with members of the press several days after the attack. During the interview they refused to answer questions about the pit bulls, and made no mention of the loss of their daughter's leg. In fact, they appeared not to acknowledge the lifelong repercussions of their daughter's missing limb, and their responsibility for the loss. Coffeyville police say the parents could face charges for the May 23rd attack on their newborn infant.

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Related Post:
The Future of the APBT (on the mauling death of 10-day old Darius Ty Leroy Tillman)

Statistics are from the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here. This page may also include information from Dogsbite and Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Kansas Infant Loses Part Of Leg In Pit Bull Attack
   KAKE News, May 28, 2013
Children waiting at bus stop injured in pit bull attack
   KCTV5 News, May 28, 2013
2-Day-Old Severely Injured After Pit Bull Attack, May 23, 2013
Triple murder follows dogfighting raids
   Animal People April 2013
Numerous complaints preceded charges in federal court
   Kansas City Star, April 1, 2012
Two KCK men charged in 3-state dogfighting case
   Kansas City Star, March 26, 2012
Police report details fatal mauling of infant by pit bull in Kalamazoo, June 3, 2011

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks