The Puppycide Database Project was deeply disturbed to have come across a proposed law making its way through the Mississsippi House of Representatives: the so-called Mississippi Regulation of Dangerous Dogs Act. The Act, also referred to as House Bill 1261, was introduced by Mississippi State Representative Larry Byrd of
District 104, and co-sponsored by Mississippi State Representative Tommy Taylor of District 28.
The Proposal made it all the way to the House Judiciary Committee before being stopped by "the overwhelmingly negative response to the bill":
The Huffington Post first reported about the proposal and clarified its purpose: to allow warrantless entry into the homes of dog owners, and to allow police to kill dogs found inside. The Post describes the following conditions:
[...]"police may kill the animals if two of the following three factors apply:
- The dogs are 'not under proper restraint when on the premises of its owner.'
- They aren't wearing vaccination tags on their necks.
- They are still running around after 'attempts to peacefully capture the dog have been made and proven unsuccessful.'"
In other words, a dog not wearing a collar in its own home would be fair game for summary execution in the State of Mississippi.
The research that the Puppycide Database Project has put together to date has demonstrated again and again that police use deadly force against dogs in banal and inexplicable situations, and rarely face any form of consequences for it. HB1261 would enshrine this abuse of authority and lack of accountability into law, and would likely prevent dog owners from even achieving recourse through the civil courts.
Not only would HB1261 provide Mississippi police with incredibly intrusive new powers to enter the homes of innocent people and to kill the animal members of the family inside those homes - it also declares any Pit Bull as automatically "Dangerous", regardless of whether the Pit Bull has ever attacked or injured any person or other animal. Even worse, HB1261 has a unique understanding of what exactly a "Pit Bull" is:
[A Pit Bull is] "a class of dogs that specifically includes the breeds of American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American bulldog, and any other pure bred or mixed breed dog that is a combination of these dog breeds."
This means that mixed breed dogs that are only 1% Pit Bull will be declared just as dangerous as pure-bred Pit Bulls. So a 40-lb Labrador mix with a Pit Bull great-great-grand-father that has never bitten anyone is lumbed in with a 100-lb Pit Bull that mauled a child to death. No distinction is made between those two hypothetical dogs, according to the Missippi Regulation of Dangerous Dogs Act. Quite a few American bulldog owners in Mississippi will likely be surprised to find that they are now "Pit Bull" owners by government fiat.
We aren't alone in our concerns. Animal advocates and legal experts have resoundingly condemned the Missippi Regulation of Dangerous Dogs Act.
Chloe Waterman of the ASPCA had this to say:
"This bill would make Mississippi the only state in the nation with a statewide policy discriminating against a specific dog breed, and the impact on local communities, animal shelters, and law enforcement would be disastrous."
Kris Diaz of StopBSL.Org:
"This bill effectively removes any protections people have from unreasonable search and seizure, and opens the door to using a dangerous dog claim as a way to scrutinize people for things they couldn’t otherwise get a warrant for."
University of Florida law professor Darren Hutchinson:
"Anything that tries to eliminate the need for a warrant to enter into a home raises huge fourth amendment concerns."
The narrow defeat of HB1261 is an important reminder: public attention toward bad policy can make a difference.