Regulating dangerous dogs
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REGULATING DANGEROUS DOGS. TO BAN OR NOT TO BAN?. John D. Joye, Esq. Senior Assistant City Attorney City of Charlotte – City Attorney’s Office International Municipal Lawyers Association 2008 Annual Conference. Headlines. Pit Bulls maul, kill boy in father’s back yard Charlotte Observer

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Regulating dangerous dogs



John D. Joye, Esq.

Senior Assistant City Attorney

City of Charlotte – City Attorney’s Office

International Municipal Lawyers Association

2008 Annual Conference


  • Pit Bulls maul, kill boy in father’s back yardCharlotte Observer

  • Father’s Pit Bulls maul Charlotte Boy to death Los Angeles Times

  • NC Boy killed by Father’s Pit Bulls AP

  • 4 Pitbulls kill Boy, 8 Sunday Mirror, London, England

  • Boy, 8, killed by dad’s dogs Sunday Mercury, Birmingham, England

Can cities regulate dogs
Can cities regulate dogs?


Dogs = Property

No Fundamental Right

  • Sentell v. New Orleans 1897

  • Nicchia v. New York 1920

  • Altman v. High Point 2003

  • New York City Friends of Ferrets v. City of New York


How will you regulate
How will you regulate?

To Ban?

Breed Specific



Not to Ban?

Dog Specific


“Non – BSL”

Breed specific ban
Breed Specific Ban

Does your state allow it?

  • Ohio does it.

  • 11 states forbid it.

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Florida

  • Maine

  • Minnesota

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • Oklahoma

  • Pennsylvania

  • Texas

  • Virginia

HSUS Statement on Dangerous Dogs and Breed-Specific Legislation

The Humane Society of the United States offers the following position regarding breed-specific policies.

The HSUS opposes legislation aimed at eradicating or strictly regulating dogs based solely on their breed for a number of reasons. Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is a common first approach that many communities take. Thankfully, once research is conducted most community leaders correctly realize that BSL won't solve the problems they face with dangerous dogs.

There are over 4.5 million dog bites each year. This is an estimate as there is no central reporting agency for dog bites, thus breed and other information is not captured. Out of the millions of bites, about 10-20 are fatal each year. While certainly tragic, it represents a very small number statistically and should not be considered as a basis for sweeping legislative action….

Full statement available at

Bsl issues pitfalls
BSL: Issues & Pitfalls Legislation

Equal Protection

  • Over-breadth

  • Under-inclusive


  • Fair & just compensation

    Due Process

  • Substantive

  • Procedural

    • Vagueness

No Fundamental Right

Rational Relation Test

Equal protection

“[I]f the classification has some reasonable basis, it does not offend the Constitution simply because the classification is not made with mathematical nicety or because the practice results in some inequality.”

Dandridge v. Williams, (1970)

“The legislature may select one phase of one field and apply a remedy there, neglecting others.”

Williamson v. Lee Optical of Oklahoma, Inc., (1955)

TAKINGS Legislation

“Even were it assumed that dogs are property in the fullest sense of the word, they would still be subject to the police power of the state, and might be destroyed or otherwise dealt with…”

Sentell v. New Orleans & C. R. Co., (1897)

  • Limited Geographic Area

Due process
DUE PROCESS Legislation


  • Name

  • Physical Characteristics

  • Hybrids


  • Notice & Hearing

  • Meaningful – prior to destruction

  • Neutral fact-finder

Hard questions hard issues
Hard Questions / Hard Issues Legislation

  • Which breeds to ban

  • How do you define

  • Ban vs. restrain

  • Partial Ban + restrain

  • Appeals / process

  • Moving target

  • Promote the breed

  • Enforcement resources

  • Humane Concerns

Fatalities v bites
Fatalities v. Bites Legislation


  • 4.7 Million

  • 800,000 victims seek medical attention

    • Half are children

  • 386,000 require ER treatment

  • Kids 5-9 highest rate of injury


  • Apprx. 18 per year

  • 2007 had apprx. 33

  • Dog-Bite-Related Fatalities -- United States, 1995-1996

  • Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998


Dog specific
Dog Specific Legislation

“Totality of Circumstances”

Dangerous  means any animal whose behavior, temperament, size, or any combination thereof, when considered under the totality of the circumstances, including the nature of the surrounding area, constitutes a reasonable risk of injuring a human or animal or damaging personal or real property.

Charlotte City Code §3-3

www.municode .com

Controls to consider
Controls to Consider Legislation


  • Reporting

  • Seizure

  • Process

  • Aggression training

  • Multiple dogs


  • Restraints

  • Insurance

  • Fertility

  • Destruction

Animal care control resources
Animal Care & Control Legislation Resources

  • Staffing

  • Budget

  • Dogs per year

  • Volunteers

  • Adoption

  • Rendering

Resources Legislation

Q & A Legislation