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Governor defangs Boston’s pit bull law

9/6/2012

Boston thought it had a solution to the problem of powerful pit bulls biting people when, back in 2004, the city passed a special ordinance requiring pit bulls to be licensed and muzzled in public. The ordinance also forbade housing more than two of the dogs. That ordinance will be history on November 1, when a new animal control law signed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick takes effect.

The law specifically forbids municipalities from passing “breed-specific ordinances.” The legislation goes on to prevent local officials from issuing an order, “directing that a dog deemed dangerous be removed from the town or city in which the owner of such dog resides.” Taking direct aim at Boston, the law goes on to say, “No city or town shall regulate dogs in a manner that is specific to breed.” Despite Boston’s best intentions to protect its residents from painful and possibly debilitating dog bites, the city’s Responsible Pit Bull Owner Ordinance must bow to state law.

Bostonians have a reason to be a little nervous about the new state law. According to reports, there were 226 confirmed pit bull attacks in the city from 2008 to 2011. Meanwhile, the number of pit bulls being dropped off at shelters is increasing dramatically. City shelter operators say 40 percent of the dogs they receive are pit bulls, their owners deciding that the legal liability and risk associated with owning the dog is not worth it.

Pit bull lovers are quick to defend the breed, saying the dogs are basically good animals and owners are to blame if the animal attacks. They deny that pits bulls are inherently dangerous. Boston City Councilor Robert Consolvo is angry with the governor and the new animal control law, warning that, “Without the regulations it’s a free-for-all out there.” Pit bulls have been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. Two pit bulls rampaged through a Washington state neighborhood, biting five people and killing a cat before police stopped them. A Michigan utility company says there have been a record 14 dog attacks against its employees so far this year, six in the last two weeks alone.

Source: Boston Herald, “Hundreds of pit bull attacks listed in Boston,” Dave Wedge, Aug. 24, 2012

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