Municipal governments from New York City to Miami, and from Council Bluffs, Iowa to Denver, have responded to fear of pit bulls and similar breeds of dogs, by severely restricting their ownership or banning them entirely from their jurisdictions. Now, thanks to a rule issued recently by the U.S. Department of Justice, such actions are subject to being struck down. Jurisdictions now considering such overreactions, such as Douglasville, Georgia, would be well-advised to review the Justice Department’s opinion before proceeding.
Dog owners and humane societies have long-opposed such arbitrary and overly broad laws that penalize thousands of pit bull owners who maintain their canine companions properly and without incident, because of a small number who fail to properly train and control the dogs. Courts generally have permitted such ordinances to stand, based on deference to the so-called “police power” of local governments to protect the public “safety and welfare.”