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Dangerous dogs put on a short leash

Published (2/22/2008)
By Craig Green
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Some dogs are more dangerous than others. But when dogs attack or bite, some believe the owner is responsible, while others believe it’s just the nature of the dog.

Approved by the House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee Feb. 19, HF2906 would make changes to statute regarding dangerous dogs. Sponsored by Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul), the bill next goes to the House Local Government and Metropolitan Affairs Committee.

The bill would require all dangerous dogs, as defined by statute, be sterilized, and that the owners notify the animal control authority within 30 days if the dog is transferred to a new location. The bill expands the circumstances under which a dangerous dog may be destroyed, but also states that animal control must provide the dog owner with the opportunity for a hearing.

Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul) proposed an amendment repealing a statute prohibiting municipalities from banning specific dog breeds. He referenced studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and from Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, arguing that certain dogs were disproportionately responsible for deaths and injuries.

“When you have animals that attack this much, and effect this much injury and death, we have to take this into consideration,” he said.

Lesch also proposed labeling five dog breeds — pit bull, rottweiler, akita, chow chow, and wolf hybrid — as potentially dangerous.

“Dogs are gonna bite; we’re not trying to ban dog bites,” Lesch said. “It’s the severe attacks, maulings and deaths that we’re trying to prevent.”

Bill Forbes, secretary and treasurer of the Minnesota Animal Control Association, disagreed. Forbes said since the findings of the Clifton report have not appeared in a professional publication, he did not put much stock in them. He also said that several national and state animal organizations are against any breed-specific legislation, and recent scientific reports have shown that areas where bans have gone into place have had little or no positive impact.

Neither amendment was adopted.

The companion bill, SF2876, sponsored by Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul), next goes before the Senate Agriculture and Veterans Committee.

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