Thursday, January 22, 2009

Billings lawmaker proposes pit bull ban-MT

The image of the pit bull has changed drastically over the years. While many may remember lovable Petey on The Little Rascals, their perception of the breed may now include the vicious fighting machines trained by an NFL Superstar who was later sent to prison for the dog fighting ring.

Now, a Billings legislator wants the dogs banned in Montana.

Robyn Driscoll's bill would give broad authority to police and animal control officers to confiscate and kill pit bulls regardless of behavior.

House Bill 191 would ban Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers, American bulldogs as well as "any dog that has been registered at any time as a pit bull terrier or has the physical characteristics that substantially conform to the standards established for the breeds listed in this subsection by the American kennel club or the united kennel club."

What a dog looks like is a poor indicator of what breed it is and this bill will not prevent attacks, according to Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter Executive Director Margie Taylor.

Defending challenges to the law will have a huge financial impact, Taylor added.

Montana's proposed ban does not apply to people who have owned pit bulls and registered their ownership with the county government and obtained a license tag, identifying the dogs as a registered pit bull dog, on or before the date the bill goes into effect.

Also protected under the bill are pit bulls that are being transported through the state and those that are being shown in a dog competition.

Pit bulls that are permitted must at all times wear tags that identify them as registered pit bulls, according to the bill.

Unless a pit bull meets these exceptions, it will have to be surrendered, under the bill. If a person refuses to surrender the dog, a search warrant can be obtained and the dog can be seized.

The dog will then be euthanized within 10 days. Also, expenses incurred by the animal control agency must be paid by the owner of the pit bull dog, the bill states.

Montana's pit bull ban will be considered at a hearing in Helena at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Similar bans have already been enacted in places, including Denver, which has one of the harshest bans on the dogs. Nearly 300 dogs have been slaughtered since the ban took effect

In Milwaukee a ban had to be expanded to include vicious dogs of any breed.

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