ST. GEORGE – Bans on specific breeds of dogs were spreading for some time among cities across the United States, including 10 Utah cities, with the intended aim to address safety issues. However, in Utah, those bans are now a thing of the past as Utah became the 19th state to prohibit laws targeting specific dog breeds under House Bill 97 – Limitation on local government regulations of animals, which went into effect Thursday.
All breeds of dogs, including pit bulls, are now legal statewide and the laws enacted in 10 Utah cities – Delta City, Duchesne, Fillmore City, Garland, Honeyville, Morgan City, North Salt Lake, Smithfield, Springville and South Jordan – after incidents where pit bulls attacked, now have no validity.
The law, sponsored by House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, notes that all risks in society cannot be negated and allows for citizens to decide what dog is best for their family. The focus is now on the behavior of certain dogs, rather than specific breeds.
“It became evident to me that for numerous reasons,” King said on the House floor, “this idea that we can target breeds, by breed – not by dog, not by incidents of dangerousness or aggressiveness of a dog – but target an entire breed and outlaw them in a city or town, that was a bad idea.”
From German shepherds to Dobermans and Rottweilers and now pit bulls, King argued that a variety of breeds have been unfairly targeted over the years because of bad acts by a few dogs.
HB 97 first passed the House 43-28 with 4 not voting on Feb. 20, 2014, The bill then received Senate approval on March 5, followed by a Senate amendment March 13 that passed 26-2 with 1 not voting. The bill, as amended by the Senate, received House concurrence the same day, 41-30 with 4 not voting.
The bill was signed by the Governor on April 2, 2014, and enrolled in the Utah Code as section 18-2-101.
Notwithstanding, subject to section 18-2-1, a municipality may still license, tax, regulate or prohibit the keeping of dogs, and authorize the destruction, sale or other disposal of the same when at large contrary to ordinance.
Furthermore, if someone has a dog that becomes a danger to the community, municipalities may still place restrictive limits on dog owners, including insurance requirements and signage requirements to offer protection to the public.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year and there is no scientific proof one breed is more likely to bite than another.
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