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State House bill would ban breed-specific dog regulations

Courtesy of Detroit Dog Rescue

A Michigan House bill (HB 4035) would prevent local governments from banning or regulating dogs on the basis of their breeds or the breeds that animal control officers or other local officials perceive them to be. 

But the bill would allow localities to regulate dogs if the local government determines them to be dangerous or potentially dangerous.

According to the bill's sponsor, state Representative Jim Ellison (D-Royal Oak), most breed-specific ordinances target pit bull-type dogs. But he said most pit bull-type dogs are not dangerous and they are not an actual breed.

Ellison said breed-specific dog laws are ineffective, and they punish law-abiding owners of well-behaved  dogs.

"If you go directly after the animal's behaviors and the owner's inability to control that animal, whatever the breed of the animal is," said Ellison. "That to me is a better way to do it."

"You can look at a dog and if it's a badly behaved dog, you can see that. That's documentable," Ellison said. "As opposed to saying, 'that looks like a pit bull, so therefore it must be a dangerous dog,' when the vast majority of pit bulls are not dangerous dogs."

Some critics of the bill claim pit bulls disproportionately account for serious bite injuries. And some opponents say that the bill preempts local control, and regulation of dogs is best left to local units of government.

The bill was passed on Wednesday out of the House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. 

According to Michigan State University's Animal Legal and Historical Center, more than 20 states have lawsthat in some form prohibit the regulation of dogs by local governments based on breed.

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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