American Bar Association steps up for pit bulls

The American Bar Association (ABA) is committed to establishing model ethical codes, among the many support services that it provides for the legal profession. It is the largest voluntary professional organization in the world, and its resolutions provide reference and guidance not only for practicing attorneys, but also for the formulation and drafting of legislation and local ordinances.

On August 6th, the House of Delegates of the ABA passed a resolution that calls for breed-neutral dangerous dog laws that focus on the behavior of dog owners and their pets rather than breed, breed types, or breed appearance as basis for laws intended to protect the public from dangerous dogs.

I am proud to say that Best Friends senior legislative analyst Ledy Vankavage, who currently serves as the chair person of the Animal Law Committee of the ABA, was instrumental in the passage of the resolution and took the lead in its drafting, along with Katie Barnett, also from Best Friends, Kara Gilmore of the National Canine Research Center, and Rebecca Huss of Valparaiso University Law School. Ms. Huss, it should be noted, was the court-appointed guardian and special master of the dogs rescued from the Michael Vick dog-fighting ring and played a key role in saving their lives.

Breed-based laws, such as the pit bull ban in Denver, Colorado, are legally inconsistent with the bedrock principle of due process because visual breed identification has been proven to be highly unreliable and because such laws ignore the actual behavior of the dog or the potentially irresponsible behavior of the dog owner. Breed laws result in the pointless killing or relocation of thousands of perfectly well-behaved pets who pose no danger to anyone based solely on appearance while leaving genuinely dangerous dogs of other breeds or appearance at large in the community.

Breed-neutral laws, on the other hand, encourage the early identification of irresponsible dog owners who encourage aggressive behavior and known canine behaviors that precede bite attacks and hold owners responsible for preventive action, such as secure property fencing, leashing in public, and other appropriate precautions to protect the public.

The public and the animals affected deserve laws that actually protect them. We are heartened by this common sense resolution by the American Bar Association.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society