Initiation: Fighting Revere’s Pit Bull Ordinance

Initiation: Fighting Revere’s Pit Bull Ordinance

By: Dina Fraumeni  Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |

On July 10, 2000, I received a letter from the animal control officer in Revere, Massachusetts, stating that the city was going to begin strict enforcement of its pit bull ordinance. This ordinance states that if you own a "pit bull type of dog," it cannot be off your property for any reason except to get medical attention. When traveling to get medical attention, the dog must be muzzled and confined to a cage so it does not come into contact with persons in or out of the vehicle used for transport.

The law places severe restriction on dogs commonly referred to or known as pit bull type of dogs. It states: "No formal breed designation is intended by the term 'pit bulls.' The term is used to the full extent of its common understanding and usage." How can you have a law about a breed of dog without breed designation?

The letter from animal control came as a surprise to me, because I had contacted Revere City Hall and asked specifically if the City of Revere had any breed specific legislation in effect before purchasing my home in the city. I asked particularly if there were any ordinances regarding pit bulls. I was told there was not, so I felt comfortable moving to the city with my dogs.


What next?

Once I received the notice from animal control, I didn't know what to do. I contacted the animal control officer, who listened to my argument that my dogs were not dangerous animals and said she was obligated to enforce the laws of the city.

I then contacted the American Dog Owners Association and began the quest to change this ordinance.

I received copies of dangerous dog laws for various cities and towns throughout the United States, position statements from highly recognized animal organizations like the American Veterinary Association and the National Animal Control Association, articles about truths and myths of the American Pit Bull Terrier, stories about American Pit Bull Terriers who are certified hearing dogs and canine heroes, and many other articles promoting the American Pit Bull Terrier in a positive manner. With help from a friend, I collected signatures from more than 100 people who own various breeds of dogs and who support dangerous dog laws, not breed specific legislation. I compiled all of this information and took it to my city councilman; I told him that I wanted to change the current ordinance to a general dangerous dog law.

When I first discussed my opposition to the breed specific ordinance, I wasn't welcomed with open arms, you might say, but I insisted (with a lot of "you can do it" from the ADOA) on appearing at the next city council meeting on August 21. Once I got the okay to address the council, I gathered all of the information that I forwarded to my councilman and had many packets copied and bound. I also wrote a speech to be sure that I stayed on track during the meeting.

It was quite nerve-wracking (I was on the phone with Bob Duffy from the ADOA about a half-hour before I was presenting to the council, getting my last minute pointers and of course lots of words of encouragement to calm my nerves). I went before council and made my presentation. A few of the councilmen were concerned with several of the points that I addressed, one of them being breed identification and the fact the ordinance was not only extremely vague, but as written, it was unenforceable.

I only got a few minutes to make my point, so I offered a copy of the presentation to each councilman for his review. I was then informed that they would take questions about enforcement to the city solicitor. When I left the meeting, Councilman Anthony Zambuto followed me into the hallway; he complimented me on my presentation, told me that he thought my points were indeed valid, and offered his assistance in changing the law. He agreed that the problems at hand were problems with irresponsible dog ownership and not the dogs themselves.

On September 11, I met with the city solicitor and councilmen Zambuto and Michael Ferrante. I just about jumped out of my seat when the solicitor agreed that the ordinance as it stood could not be enforced appropriately and could easily be challenged. He commended me for bringing forth not only the issue at hand in a professional manner, but also for offering a fair solution: a general dangerous dog law.

On September 18, I received a copy of the letter of recommendation from the city solicitor to the City of Revere council members advising them that he (the solicitor) thinks the best solution is to change the current "pit bull" ordinance to a dangerous dog law. With this letter was a copy of the City of Boston's dangerous dog law which was enclosed for my review. I am in the process of suggesting a few changes to the ordinance, but we are quickly moving to have a new dangerous dog law enacted within the City of Revere that is NOT BREED SPECIFIC!!!!

I can't thank the ADOA enough for assisting me with my fight for the right to own my best friends! I know it could have been a much more difficult fight. I was fortunate enough to have council members who were able to see past media hype and all of the negative things we hear about the American Pit Bull Terrier (especially when there were three highly publicized pit bull attacks within one week of my addressing the council). The ADOA showed me how to get the attention of council members, keep their attention, and address the situation with clear facts, not with opinion. I have to thank everyone at ADOA and Virginia Rowland from the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners. Virginia forwarded so much great information to me for my presentation as well as kind words of encouragement. I am forever grateful and I could have never done it without them!

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