Monday, January 26, 2009

Bill Draws Protest



BILLINGS - A Montana house bill had dog owners around the state and even the country up in arms Thursday.
The bill was quickly shot down in its first hearing Thursday in the State House. State representatives heard the bill Thursday that would have banned pit-bulls and other similar dogs if passed. It's widely known as breed specific legislation, and Montana is not the first state to consider it.

Beau Schmieding grew up with pit bulls, and loved them so much he just got another. "This is Flukie Tank Schmieding, and he's 6 months old," says Schmieding. Dog lovers like him from around the state swarmed Helena Thursday, many outraged by proposed House Bill 191.

Two recent pit bull maulings in Billings led State Representative Robyn Driscoll to introduce the bill that would ban the dogs. Since then Driscoll and others in the House have been bombarded with emails, not just from Montana but around the world.

"This bill does not kill dogs. People are saying I'm going to take their dogs and euthanize them. This bill grandfathers in dogs that are alive and well in Montana." The bill wouldn't only ban pit bulls, it would also ban Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, American Bull Dogs and any cross there-of.

"I'm sure there are nice pit bulls but I was talking with one of our deputy county attorneys and his analogy was, in Montana we have guns but we regulate them and if there's one that's so dangerous and such a threat we outlaw it, like machine guns," said Driscoll.

The bill would have meant all unregistered dogs falling under the bill could be confiscated and euthanized. It also would have mandated that they be muzzled and leashed at all times when in public. "What's he going to think? He'll probably feel like I'm punishing him every time we go out," said Schmieding.

Schmieding, like many pit bull owners, didn't see the merit of the bill; and many of them said so at the hearing on Thursday. "He's the best friend I've ever had, it's just the reputation," says Schmieding. But outraged owners weren't the only ones against it. The U.S Humane Society says singling out a breed is not an efficient way to protect people from dangerous dogs.

The bill was shot down with a voice vote Thursday in its hearing. No word yet if Driscoll will try to rework and her bill and give it a go again. Ekalaka and Libby, Montana already have pit bull bans on the books.

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