New Utah law prohibits dog discrimination

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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22 Comments

  • Billy Madison January 5, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Are you freaking kidding me?!? Dogs have rights now? If I can’t discriminate, can I at least profile? Know what, I’m still gonna discriminate. I’d like to see some dog take me to court. Hmmm, Dog the Bounty Hunter?

    • arts and letters January 5, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      Just what I was thinking, Billy. And I’m pretty sure everyone else who’s been attacked by dogs will feel the same way. In my case, it was Dobermans – a pair of them when I was a child. Have a friend who had a pit bull, had been in the family for years and one day he moved a little wrong, almost lost his hand to the PB. Pit Bulls are like serial killers – the owners always say, “But he was such an affectionate dog,” the same way the neighbors of serial killers always say, “But he was such a nice person.” Yeah. Right.

  • Brian January 5, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Fine, but if a dog from a known killer breed kills someone, the owner should be tried for negligent homicide (at a minimum). Pit-bulls kill kids all the time, including in households where they’ve lived for years with the children they end up killing. They’ve been bred to kill, we shouldn’t be surprised when they do. Why am I not surprised this legislation came from a liberal?

  • Brian January 5, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    BTW, don’t just report BS rhetoric without backing it up. The claim that “there is no scientific proof one breed is more likely to bite than another” is feel-good politically correct bull crap that can be refuted with very little effort. For instance, in one hospital study pit bull attacks were 4 times more severe, much more costly, and essentially infinitely more fatal (10.3% fatality vs. 0% among all other breeds): http://journals.lww.com/annalsofsurgery/Abstract/2011/04000/Mortality,_Mauling,_and_Maiming_by_Vicious_Dogs.23.aspx In another study covering 30 years of data, pit bulls, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios and their mixes are responsible for 74% of attacks that were included in the study, 68% of the attacks upon children, 82% of the attacks upon adults, 65% of the deaths, and 68% of the maimings. http://dogbitelaw.com/images/pdf/Dog_Attacks_1982-2006_Clifton.pdf

    • DesertBill January 5, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      Brian,

      Thanks for the info. Even if the number of dog bites were evenly spread across the breeds, I’d rather be bitten by a poodle than a pit bull or rottweiler.

  • Bender January 5, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Staffordshire/Pit Bull Terrier enthusiasts: your pitty may be the sweetest dog on the God’s green earth but well over half of all human deaths caused by dogs in the past decade are caused by your “breed”.

  • peter wilson January 5, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Brian – way to stick to labels (pit bulls, liberals) and the ease of discrimination, rather than learn more about the subject. Pit bulls are responsible for most attacks in the past, which is mostly due to their history and training (“bred to kill”, as you said), not because of the dog but because of the owners that bred/trained them that way. So, yes, the owners should be responsible for training properly. However, data also shows that about 85% of all attacks are by male dogs – does that mean we should ban all male dogs? Look at the source of the problem rather than an illogical ban that has no scientific merit. (http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/images/dogbreeds-a.pdf)

    • Chris January 5, 2015 at 5:17 pm

      Your reasoning is sketchy at best. The fact is that behavior in dogs is almost entirely inbred. If pit bulls were bred to fight (as they were), they will have that tendency regardless of their training. Add to that fact, the unique muscular structure of their jaws gives them a bite many times more powerful than any other breed. No one has a “right” to own a creature like that. You might as well argue that anyone should be allowed to house a tiger or crocodile in their backyard. I would not only argue that “pits” should be banned, but that all existing ones should be exterminated.

      • peter wilson January 5, 2015 at 7:24 pm

        Exactly, the reasoning is sketchy – but that is how people are using the statistics. Saying we should ban pit bulls because 70% of fatalities are caused by pit bulls is the same as using the statistic that 85% of fatalities are caused by male dogs, so let’s ban male dogs. Another statistic – there are over 5 million pit bulls in the US. In 2013, around 40 were involved in fatalities. That’s 1 bad pit for every 150,000 good ones, or 99.9993% of all pit bulls did not kill people. By comparison, 1 in every 18,000 people is a murderer. So should all people be “exterminated” because they are more deadly, per capita (and total numbers) than pit bulls? It all comes back to the source of the issue – how was the dog raised and trained. Huskies and Saint Bernards also have massive jaw muscles, but they are usually raised in positive environments and not involved in as many (but some) deaths.

        • arts and letters January 5, 2015 at 7:46 pm

          Do you have statistics on injuries as well as deaths? Many serious injuries have happened in the jaws of pit bulls – it’s not just deaths that should be considered. Your last sentence is the give-away for me re Huskies and Saint Bernards being raised “in positive environments.” Too many thugs and druggies use pit bulls to keep everybody away and they do train them to be aggressive about that. Add this into the equation (already inbred) and you’ve got a dangerous animal.

    • Brian January 5, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      Peter, breeding and training are two different things. Breeding is in their DNA and really can’t be changed (65% of pit bull attacks are by family dogs, and 88% of owner fatalities are by pit bulls). Training can make it much worse (and many are trained that way), but pit bulls raised in the home since they were a puppy have ended up having a bad day and killing children they’ve spent their entire lives with. Out of the myriad breeds of dogs, the vast majority of maulings and fatalities are pit bulls. It’s a broken breed that can’t be fixed. Sad, but true. The fact that only a tiny percentage ever actually kill or mame is beside the point. They recall a million cars when only 10 have killed someone, and rightly so, because all of the cars have the flaw even if the right mix of conditions only happened with 10 of them. Pit bulls are a fatally flawed breed.

      • peter willson January 6, 2015 at 10:51 am

        You said earlier “BTW, don’t just report BS rhetoric without backing it up”. Where is your data that maulings are mostly caused by pit bulls? Your data shows that the severity is worse with pit bulls, but not the total numbers. The data I have seen (links in previous comment) show that pit bulls are not the most likely cause of maulings/non-fatal bites. A tiny percentage of German Shepherds kill people each year as well, and make up a smaller percentage of dog population in the US, so they have nearly the same rate of killing people per dog-capita as pit bulls do (about 1 killer dog per 150,000-200,000 good dogs). Do we need to ban german shepherds too? The statistics all point to a problem that goes beyond the type of dog, but the type of environment they come from. The media and incorrect use of the 65% statistic (of all dog killings are pit bulls) does not make sense when you break down the statistics to something that you can compare apples-apples, not apples-nothing.

  • Native born New Mexican January 5, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    My sister raised her 6 children with a very sweet pit bull that in the dog’s old age became a companion animal to my elderly father. Pug as my dad called her was a wonderful dog for all of her 13 years of life. She had to go live with dad because sis moved to an area that would not allow Pug even though she was an old lady by then and had never hurt even a flea. Sis’s kids were heart broken but Pug became a wonderful pet for dad. My neighbor’s dog is none of my business as long as the dog does me no harm. I don’t care what breed they are. In my youth other wise friendly dogs got shot and killed because they were killing chickens or sheep. CONTROL your dog, keep it off of other people’s property and everything will be fine.

    • Brian January 5, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      So because one person smokes their whole life and doesn’t die of cancer, cigarettes don’t cause cancer? Just because your sister rolled the dice and got away with it doesn’t mean pit bulls don’t pose a serious risk. There are 339 recognized breeds of dog, and the pit bull / pit bull mixes account for 65% of deaths. If a brand of soda pop had the same risk of death it would be pulled from the shelves immediately.

      • peter wilson January 6, 2015 at 10:33 am

        The 65% you are referring to is out of the 30-40 deaths by dog bites each year. That’s 20-30 pit bulls gone bad. The other 4,999,970 pit bulls did not kill anyone. There are more people killed by lightning each year in the US (average of 50) than pit bulls, so do we ban lightning? 20% of people that die each year are a result of cigarettes/smoke, and we don’t ban those. Based on your smoking logic – true, one person surviving does not mean smoking does not cause cancer. But a third of people smoking do die of cancer, so there is a link between smoking and cancer because a large population of smokers die from cancer. Likewise, 99.99+% of pit bulls do NOT kill, therefore there exists a link between pit bulls and NOT killing people. You cannot say 65% of dog bites being cause by pit bulls is reason to exterminate them, when that 65% is such a trivial number (20-30/year) compared to the nearly 5,000,000 that are great dogs.

  • Evil twins mommy January 5, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    I don’t care what the law says. I’ll never hire a French Poodle.!

  • BunnyRabbit2015 January 5, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Pitbulls are all sweet, loving dogs. They only get mean when abused by the owners. They are no meaner than any other dog breed.

  • ladybugavenger January 5, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    Every dog has its day

  • Dogged January 6, 2015 at 7:47 am

    All dogs are OK, but keep discriminating against gays, blacks, women, and non-Mormons.

  • McMullin Legal Group January 6, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Municipalities passing breed-based laws is likely not the answer, but it does not take a genius to recognize that different breeds of dog can inflict different degrees of damage in the same amount of time.

  • wicked dragon January 6, 2015 at 11:38 am

    I own a pit bull. He everyone that comes around him love him. I think those little dogs are more dangerous than any larger dogs. It is all about the way the animals are being raised an treated. That teachs the animal how to behave. So yes Brain the owner should be help reasonable for any action the there animals may do do to someone.

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