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TX: City of Garland passes illegal "pit bull" fencing requirements

Discussion in 'Dog Ordinances & Laws' started by petahs, May 28, 2010.

  1. petahs

    petahs Puppy

    City of Garland passes illegal "pit bull" fencing requirements

    The city of Garland, Texas issued a press release Monday unveiling new fencing requirements "for pit bull dogs or pit bull crossbreeds."

    According to Animal Law attorney Zandra Anderson, ""Our state law specifically forbids any law being enacted by a city or a county that targets one breed or several breeds of dogs. If Garland wants to have fencing laws, they can, as long as the laws apply to all breeds of dogs." She adds, "Calling the law a 'directive' does not exempt Garland from our state law."

    Beginning August 1, 2010, Dogs considered to be "American Staffordshire Terriers, pit bull dogs, American Bull Dogs, or crossbreeds thereof" must be kept within fences that are at least six feet tall and constructed of wooden planks at least ½ inch thick or 11 gage chain link fencing with no gaps or openings larger than 2 inches. In addition, the fence.must be firmly attached to brace posts buried no less than 18 inches deep, and gates must have a locking mechanism that keeps the gates securely closed.

    The requirements apply to dogs regardless of whether or not they are declared dangerous, been the source of complaints, or have been found running at large.

    The City also states that "ASOs shall enforce this policy consistently at each address where pit bull dogs are observed." Therefore, the fencing requirements for an indoor pet "pit bull" that goes outside only to eliminate and exercise will be more stringent than those for a Doberman that stays outside 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    There are no exceptions for dogs that are elderly or otherwise physically incapable of escaping their enclosures.

    Owners who register their dogs with the city prior to August 1, 2010 and maintain compliance with all applicable Animal Service Ordinances will be exempted from the ordinance.

    City Animal Service Officers will be given the job of determining which dogs are ""obviously pit bull dogs or crossbreeds thereof. " Marginal cases will be referred to the Animal Services Manager and/or City Veterinarian for a final determination.

    The directive states: "Residents will be given a minimum of 30 days to comply (provided that the existing enclosure is structurally sound and has no gaps or holes through which the dogs can readily escape). ASOs should reference the enforcement policy for progressive enforcement [emphasis mine] if compliance is not gained after the initial compliance date."

    Neither the "directive" nor the city code available online spells out what these enforcement steps will be. What are the consequences? Fines? Seizure of the dog? Garland's policy of not adopting out "pit bulls" is well known. And, Garland is one of the few cities left in Texas still using gas to euthanize pets, a practice the veterinary community widely considers to be inhumane.

    This kind of law (which is not a law -- it's a directive) gives wide latitude to the city to simply tell someone, "Hand over the dog and we won't make you get a new fence." Relinquishing the dog may seem like the only alternative to residents who do not have the means to build a new fence or are renting. Major fencing projects require not only money and labor, but surveys, city building permits, and in some cases homeowner association approvals.

    Garland residents need to contact their elected representatives to ask:
    • Are you going to kill peoples' dogs if the owners' fence is only 5 1/2" feet tall?
    • If people do register their "pit bulls" before the deadline, how will this information be used, especially if state law changes and Garland passes a breed ban? Even without a breed ban, sometimes, as the Gideons of Dallas discovered, grandfathered pet permits can be fleeting.
    • Many "pit bull" mixes are registered simply as "terrier mix." Will these dogs be considered to be ineligible for grandfathering unless the owner re-registers them as pit bulls?
    • Why is the city violating state law? Or does the city believe that a "directive" is not subject to state laws or open meetings requirements? In contrast, the City of Fort Worth passed fencing requirements for all dog breeds, after weeks of public comment and revision.
    • What is the process for appeal if an owner believes that his dog is not a "pit bull?"
    • Is the city going to dig up residents' yards to see if the fence posts are 18 inches deep?
    • Is there money in the budget for officers to respond to calls from people reporting that there is a "pit bull" next door?
    • Are there no more loose or dangerous dogs left in the city that need to be picked up?

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