Dog lovers are wagging their tails at the prospect of Missouri putting an end to breed-specific legislation — laws ban or regulate dogs by type or breed, most often targeting Pit Bulls.
Last month, Missouri’s General Laws Committee unanimously passed a bill, HB 1811, that would prohibit BSL from being enacted or enforced anywhere in the state.
The next step is for the bill to be scheduled for a vote on the House Floor. (Missouri’s Senate will also have to introduce, and pass, its own version of the bill.)
Rep. Ron Hicks (R), the bill’s sponsor in the House, said HB 1811 is designed to end breed-based discrimination against dogs and their families in favor of breed-neutral dog safety laws that punish irresponsible owners.
“Let’s hold the owner of the animal responsible, not the animal itself,” Hicks said to The Missouri Times.
Pit bans and other forms of BSL are roundly condemned by groups like the ASPCA, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Bar Association, the American Kennel Club — and even the White House — as bad for families, bad for dogs, expensive to enforce, and ineffective at promoting public safety.
Nineteen states have so-called “preemption” laws, like the one now proposed in Missouri. Utah, the 19th, enacted its law in 2015.
Brent Toellner, co-founder and board president for the KC Pet Project — the nonprofit which manages Kansas City, Missouri’s animal shelter — told BarkPost he is feeling hopeful that Missouri will become the 20th.
“Because of the strong support for the bill, and the limited opposition, I remain optimistic about our chances,” he said.
While a number of Missouri jurisdictions have scrapped BSL in recent years, it persists in some 60 cities and counties around the state. This takes a toll on shelters, animals, and families.
A lot of dogs land in the shelter because of breed bans — and then many can’t be adopted into families who want to give them loving homes, because those homes are in areas where blocky-headed dogs aren’t allowed.
“If we’re going to be a society that recognizes pets are a part of the family — and most people do consider them that — then our laws should reflect that desire to preserve the human/canine bond versus split it apart. Until the laws change, that’s not going to happen.”
Representative Hicks told BarkPost in an email that he feels confident that the bill has enough support to pass in the House at this point. The Senate, he said, seems less certain now, “but I certainly hope so.”
Featured image via KC Pet Project
Full disclosure statement: Best Friends Animal Society is one of the groups supporting this bill. It also employs this journalist’s brother, Lee Greenwood. We independently became Pit Bull advocates; our parents are understandably both proud and confused.