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August 3, 2012

Lowell’s Muzzle Law Invalidated

by at 10:44 am.

It appears that legislation signed by Governor Patrick yesterday invalidates the pitbull muzzle law passed not so long ago by Lowell’s City Council. As most readers know, I am not for breed-specific bans or laws, so to me, this is good news. The bill reads, in part:

No city or town shall regulate dogs in a manner that is specific to breed.

In all fairness, I know why councilors and citizens reacted to news stories about pitbull attacks the way they did. But what they did had little ability to address the real problems this city has with dangerous dogs. It only served to single out the good dogs of good owners who follow laws in the first place. The dogs who are a problem are the ones raised by bad owners; who leave male dogs intact; who deliberately train aggressiveness into their dogs; and who breed dogs without license and without regard for problems due to inbreeding and who take away pups from their litter far too early for proper socialization. That last one, about inproper breeding and raising of pups, probably accounts for most of the problem dogs, of any breed. It happens that the “cool” thing to do is to own a rough-and-tough pitbull for a certain type of dog owner (for whom, in many cases, owning a dog is not about adding a beloved pet to one’s family). But aggressive and dangerous dogs come from all breeds, the most dangerous being those of strong jaws and large size, of course, just because of the laws of physics.

Like everyone else, I want safety to be a priority in the city. I walk my (small) dogs in my neighborhood, and am as disturbed as anyone else is when I hear from people that “around that corner is a big dog that is sometimes loose and is aggressive” - I don’t want anything to happen to my pups, or to anyone’s kids, or to adults walking down the street, either.

It would help if all of us called the animal control officer, or the non-emergency number of the police, when we spot a dog loose in our neighborhoods. If you know of an aggressive dog, or a dog not under its owner’s control (behind a secure fence, securely tied up, or on a leash), then do something about it. Don’t wait until it attacks your five pound chihuahua or your toddler, or you. The only way to solve this problem is to address the owners of these animals who aren’t doing their lawful due diligence with their pets.

We need better enforcement of existing dog laws, more resources for animal control, and outreach in our community to educate dog owners what their responsibilities are. And finding illegal breeders and putting a stop to the money-grubbing operations that are creating dangerous dogs in the first place.

Congratulations to the state of Massachusetts for recognizing that singling out breeds doesn’t make us safer, and that we need the resources to ensure that dogs are owned responsibly.

Update: The Mayor’s new assistant weighs in as well.

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