Best Friends Animal Society Officials Celebrate New Utah Law That Protects Pet Owners’ Property Rights, Bans Breed Discrimination

Best Friends Animal Society (http://www.bestfriends.org), along with dog owners throughout Utah, are celebrating yesterday’s signing of Utah House Bill 97 into law by Gov. Gary Herbert, which protects pet owner property rights and allows responsible citizens to own any breed of dog they choose. Best Friends Animal Society spearheaded the effort to gain passage of the law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015.

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BSL, BDL, pit bulls, pit bull terriers, Best Friends Animal Society, Breed Specific Legislation, pubic safety, dog bites

Certified therapy dog Captain Cowpants visited the Utah State Capitol in support of HB 97.

The passage of HB 97 is a resounding victory for dogs and dog lovers, not only in Utah, but across the country, as the momentum against breed discriminatory legislation continues to build.

Salt Lake City, Utah (PRWEB) April 03, 2014

Best Friends Animal Society, along with dog owners throughout Utah, are celebrating yesterday’s signing of Utah House Bill 97 into law by Gov. Gary Herbert. (http://le.utah.gov/~2014/bills/static/HB0097.html) The bill sponsored by Rep. Brian King, protects pet owner property rights and allows responsible citizens to own any breed of dog they choose. Best Friends Animal Society spearheaded the effort to gain passage of the law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015.

Today’s action in Utah is the latest in a trend of states’ affirming people’s right to choose their dogs. The signing into law of HB 97 makes Utah the 19th state to pass a provision banning some form of breed discrimination. South Dakota’s governor signed a similar bill last month. Missouri and Maryland are also working on similar-themed bills.

“The passage of HB 97 is a resounding victory for dogs and dog lovers, not only in Utah, but across the country, as the momentum against breed discriminatory legislation continues to build,” said Gregory Castle, chief executive officer for Best Friends Animal Society. “We would like to thank the thousands of concerned citizens who called, wrote, emailed or testified in support of this effort. Now responsible Utahns have the right to move from town to town without having to give up their pet or be afraid of being arrested when they walk their dog.”

Current law allows local governments to ban or restrict people’s rights regarding certain breeds or mixed breeds. Five Utah cities prohibit residents from owning pit bull terriers and some other breeds, while five other cities impose stringent restrictions on owning pit bull terriers and a variety of other breeds, including German Shepherds, Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Akitas, Shar Peis and Tosas.

“Best Friends is elated that Gov. Herbert signed this important legislation into law,” said Ledy VanKavage, senior legislative attorney for Best Friends Animal Society. “It enhances public safety, protects pet owners’ rights and saves tax dollars. Our special thanks go to Rep. Brian King who led the effort with Best Friends to end breed discrimination in the Beehive State, along with Sen. Okerlund and Sen. Dayton, who stood up to protect citizens’ property rights.”

The success of this new law signals further movement away from breed discriminatory legislation--sometimes called breed specific legislation or BSL— which, based on studies and experience, has proven that laws targeting dogs based solely on breed are ineffective in reducing dog bites. The laws also have been difficult and expensive to enforce, violate basic property rights and ultimately punish responsible dog owners and innocent family pets.

“The simple truth is that breed discrimination doesn’t work,” said VanKavage.

Studies in a number of countries with breed-discriminatory laws show that breed simply is not a factor in the frequency of dog bites. According to the National Canine Research Council and an Oct. 2010 report in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA), studies done in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands found that breed discriminatory laws in those countries didn’t reduce the number of dog bites or improve public safety. (http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/uploaded_files/tinymce/NNB%20now%20available%20in%20JAVMA%20dated.pdf) Because of this, more and more jurisdictions are enacting comprehensive breed-neutral ordinances that focus on the ensuring the proper behavior of both dogs and owners.

Based on these studies and concerns about due process and property rights infringement, the American Bar Association, the National Animal Control Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, Best Friends Animal Society, the ASPCA, and the Humane Society of the United States are against breed discrimination.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), based on its Sept. 2000 study of human fatalities from dog bites, published in JAVMA, also promotes a breed-neutral approach to legislation. The CDC found that many other factors, besides a dog’s breed such as reproductive status, heredity, sex, early experiences, socialization and training, can affect the likelihood that a dog could bite someone. (http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.2000.217.836)

Utah-based Best Friends works with state legislators around the country to prohibit breed discriminatory laws and enact laws that focus on the behavior of the dog and the owner. Many cities are enacting reckless owner ordinances and 19 states now prohibit some form of breed discrimination.

About Best Friends Animal Society®
Best Friends Animal Society is the only national animal welfare organization focused exclusively on ending the killing of dogs and cats in America's shelters. An authority and leader in the no-kill movement since its founding in 1984, Best Friends runs the nation's largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals, as well as life-saving programs in partnership with rescue groups and shelters across the country. Since its founding, Best Friends has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters from 17 million per year to about 4 million. Best Friends has the knowledge, technical expertise and on-the-ground network to end the killing and Save Them All®.

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