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Rhode Island: Another Bill Seeks to Chip Away at State's Breed-Neutral Dog Laws

(Monday, March 17, 2014)
For the second time this year, the Rhode Island House Municipal Government Committee will consider a bill that attempts to chip away some of the state’s protections against local breed-specific legislation that were enacted in 2013. Although the previous attempt was unsuccessful, a new measure, House Bill 7630, would allow the City of Warwick to enact or adopt a rule, regulation, or ordinance pertaining to spaying or neutering of “pit bulls” and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. The proposed rule, regulation, or ordinance would not apply to licensed breeders of such dogs. The American Kennel Club (AKC) strongly opposes both breed-specific and mandatory spay/neuter laws, and believes House Bill 7630 represents a step backward for Rhode Island. AKC urges all concerned Rhode Island residents to express opposition to HB 7630.

AKC’s Position on Breed Specific Legislation: The American Kennel Club strongly opposes any legislation that determines a dog to be “dangerous” based on specific breeds or phenotypic classes of dogs. Instead, we support 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. 

AKC’s Position on Mandatory Spay/Neuter: The American Kennel Club opposes the concept of breeding permits, breeding bans or the mandatory spay/neuter of purebred dogs. Instead, we support reasonable and enforceable laws that protect the welfare and health of purebred dogs and do not restrict the rights of breeders and owners who meet their responsibilities. 

Points to Consider:

  • The concept of breed-specific legislation is substantively flawed. It is ineffective because not all dogs and their owners are subject to appropriate and fair standards of behavior. Additionally, it is difficult to enforce because law enforcement officials are often not breed-identification experts. In the alternative, strong enforcement of leash laws and establishment of enhanced and graduated penalties will effectively target irresponsible owners of all breeds without unduly burdening responsible owners and breeders. Communities must establish a well-defined procedure for dealing with dogs that repeatedly violate an animal control ordinance or those that are proven to be dangerous. In order to be effective, these ordinances should not single out specific breeds or phenotypic classes of dogs. Deeds, not breeds, should be addressed. 
  • The American Kennel Club is joined by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Animal Control Association, the American Bar Association, the National Animal Interest Alliance, and a multitude of animal-focused organizations opposed to breed-specific policies. 
  • Mandatory spay/neuter is an ineffective solution to animal control problems because it fails to address the heart of animal control issues—irresponsible ownership. These laws are extremely difficult to enforce and are often easily evaded. Furthermore, these laws most often unfairly punish responsible owners who already comply with local animal control laws, while irresponsible owners continue to make problems for the community and local shelters.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Concerned Rhode Island residents are strongly encouraged to email the members of the House Municipal Government Committee listed below, and urge them to oppose House Bill 7630. Please feel free to use the Points to Consider (above) in your messages. 

Rhode Island residents are also urged to attend Thursday’s meeting of the House Municipal Governments Committee, and testify in opposition to House Bill 7630. The committee will meet upon the “Rise of the House”, in Room 203 of the Rhode Island State House, 82 Smith St, Providence, Rhode Island 02903. 

House Municipal Government Committee Roster:

Representative John J. DeSimone, Chair
Email: rep-desimone@rilin.state.ri.us 

Representative Jeremiah T. O’Grady, Vice Chair
Email: rep-ogrady@rilin.state.ri.us 

Representative Raymond H. Johnston, Jr., Secretary
Email: rep-johnston@rilin.state.ri.us 

Representative Mia A. Ackerman
Email: rep-ackerman@rilin.state.ri.us 

Representative Gregg Amore
Email: rep-amore@rilin.state.ri.us 

Representative David A. Bennett
Email: rep-bennett@rilin.state.ri.us 

Representative Gregory J. Costantino
Email: rep-costantino@rilin.state.ri.us 

Representative Joy Hearn
Email: rep-hearn@rilin.state.ri.us 

Representative Katherine S. Kazarian
Email: rep-kazarian@rilin.state.ri.us 

Representative Charlene Lima
Email: rep-lima@rilin.state.ri.us 

Representative Kenneth A. Marshall
Email: rep-marshall@rilin.state.ri.us 

Representative Brian C. Newberry
Email: rep-newberry@rilin.state.ri.us 

For more information, contact AKC Government Relations at (919) 816-3720, or email doglaw@akc.org.