American Dog Owner’s Association Files Suit Against The City of Englewood, New Jersey To Overturn Breed Specific Law

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ADOA challenges City of Englewood’s illegal breed ban, a direct violation of New Jersey State law, for failure to provide equal protection and services under the law.

The American Dog Owners Association (ADOA) and two of its members, Natalie Wells and Mia Rodriguez, who reside in Englewood, New Jersey, filed suit in New Jersey Superior Court (Docket# BER-L-5285-06) last week to challenge the city’s aggressive dog ordinance banning specific breeds as a direct violation of state law, which explicitly prohibits breed discrimination. The American Dog Owners Association, the country’s largest independent dog owner’s organization, asserts that the City of Englewood, New Jersey has failed to provide its residents equal protection under the law by denying the residents’ applications to license their dogs and has subjected them to harassment.

“New Jersey has one of the strongest dangerous dog laws in the country, and we’d like to see the City of Englewood comply with state law. The City of Englewood has a duty to protect the public health and safety of all of its citizens, as well as protect the rights of responsible dog owners, regardless of breed”, said Maureen Hill-Hauch, ADOA’s Executive Director.

Ms. Hill-Hauch noted that breed bans and other breed-specific measures are strongly opposed by all major animal welfare and veterinary medical organizations, as well as the Center For Disease Control, as being ineffective in the prevention of dog bites or attacks. “Strong dangerous dog laws are based on facts, not media hype. To keep the public safe, we need real solutions, like the enforcement of the New Jersey Vicious and Potentially Dangerous Dog Act, not empty laws”.

The New Jersey Vicious and Potentially Dangerous Dog Act, N.J. S. § 4:19-36, explicitly prohibits breed discrimination, stating, “any law, ordinance, or regulation concerning vicious or potentially dangerous dogs, any specific breed of dog or any other type of dog inconsistent with this act enacted by any municipality, county or county board of health”.

The City of Englewood’s Ordinance N.99-66 violates N.J.S.§ 4:19-26 by defining the following breeds as aggressive: Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers, or “any dogs of mixed breed which has the appearance or characteristics of being predominately of the breeds”, and bans them from being kept within the City of Englewood.

Flora Edwards, counsel for the Plaintiffs, told the court that under the city’s illegal breed-specific ordinance, even Rufus, this year’s winner of Best In Show at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden, would be unwelcome in the City of Englewood, and his owners would run the risk of having the world’s top dog seized and impounded. Rufus, a Colored Bull Terrier, hailed as an ambassador for his breed, has been given the keys to a number of cities in New Jersey and throughout the country. He resides with his owners in Holmdel, New Jersey.

On Thursday, July 20, 2006, the Plaintiffs, the American Dog Owner’s Association, Natalie Wells and Mia Rodriguez, were granted a temporary restraining order by the Honorable Jonathan Harris in Bergen Country Superior Court against the City of Englewood, preventing the city from seizing or impounding the Plaintiff’s dogs until the case can be heard. A trial date has been set for early August.

The Plaintiffs, Ms. Wells, a stock analyst, and the owner of Sentry, a twelve-year old American Pit Bull Terrier, and Ms. Rodriguez, a respected artist and owner of Cyrus, also a rescued American Pit Bull Terrier, say they both live in fear that their dogs will be seized by the City of Englewood, and have been subjected to a pattern of harassment by the city’s Department of Health since trying to obtain licenses for their dogs.

“We’re responsible dog owners – we just want the same rights as other responsible dog owners”, said Ms. Rodriguez. Neither of the Plaintiff’s dogs is allowed to run loose, nor do they have any bite history. Both dogs are well cared for and well socialized, and pose no threat to the public.

“Cyrus is such a good boy, he’s so happy, so loving. He keeps me company and follows me everywhere”, said his owner, Mia Rodriguez. Ms Rodriguez rescued Cyrus as a puppy and helped nurse him back to health from a near-fatal bout with parvovirus with the help of donated services from a local veterinarian. “Cyrus also plays guardian angel to my Pug, who recently had a stroke. They curl up and sleep together in my studio”.

“We’ve had Sentry since she was a tiny puppy, just six weeks old”, said Ms. Wells, who suffers from lupus. “She was given to us by our vet in Philadelphia. Sentry is our baby, part of our family”. Sentry is recovering from cancer surgery and has cataracts. “We’ve nursed her through her cancer and other illnesses, including the loss of our other dog just after Mother’s Day. I don’t know what I’d do without her”.

Barbara Haywood, ADOA’s volunteer communications coordinator, said that the American Dog Owner’s Association lawsuit has the support of numerous dog clubs in New Jersey and throughout the country. In addition, the ADOA is actively seeking other residents of Englewood who own the breeds or mixes of breeds of dogs banned by the city to join the lawsuit free of charge. Those residents who feel they may have been discriminated against by the city’s illegal dog ordinance, or dog organizations wishing to provide letters of support, may contact the American Dog Owner’s Association directly via email at: adoa @ global2000.net

The American Dog Owners Association, ADOA, founded in 1970, is the country’s largest independent dog owner organization representing individual dog owners, breeders, handlers, and dog clubs of all breeds, mixes and backgrounds. The American Dog Owners Association recognizes the special relationship between dogs and humans, and advocates for the protection and preservation of responsible dog ownership and public education about responsible dog ownership, and works with communities to support and enact strong dangerous dog legislation. On the web at http://www.adoa.org

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