Legislators Want Dogs to Have More Freedom


Another state is looking to pursue legislation that would bar communities from enacting laws to ban certain types of dog breeds.

In June, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill barring local and municipal governments in the state, as well as public housing entities, from enacting rules barring ownership of dogs based on breed, size or weight.

Among other things, the move ended a decades-long ban in Miami-Dade County on owning pit bulls, which often have been at the center of a commonly held belief that certain breeds are inherently more aggressive or dangerous. Rules and laws can still be enacted to prevent dog attacks, but breeds cannot be used as a factor in them.

Now, state lawmakers in Michigan are pursuing similar legislation. Three bills were introduced last week that would bar governments in the state from enacting breed-specific legislation. The bills, which have bipartisan support, were put forward shortly after the Grosse Pointe Shores community banned ownership of pit bulls.

A pit bull runs through a fountain. A new proposal in Michigan’s state Legislature would bar communities from banning dogs based on breed.
Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

The bills would bar counties, townships, cities and villages from enacting laws banning the ownership of dogs based on breed. They are sponsored by state Representatives Penelope Tsernoglou, a Democrat, Veronica Paiz, a Democrat, and Joe Arogona, a Republican.

About 30 other local governments in Michigan have enacted similar laws. At the national level, such laws were in place in 22 states as of last year, according to an analysis from Michigan State University’s Animal Legal & Historical Center.

“Municipalities in the past have contemplated bans on specific breeds of dogs based on common, false associations between breeds and personality types, forcing tough choices on families,” Tsernoglou said in a statement.

Newsweek reached out to Tsernoglou’s office via email for further comment.

In addition to members of the Michigan Legislature, the proposal has the support of the non-profit animal advocacy group Michigan Humane, with president and CEO Matt Pepper releasing a statement urging governments to protect their communities in other ways.

“A municipality which wants to protect its citizens, and safety is important to all of us, should focus on the enforcement of existing laws and the actual behavior of owners and their dogs,” Pepper said. “The tools to create safer environments, for both people and pets, are already available and just need to be enforced uniformly and fairly.”

Michigan Humane has advocated for replacing breed-specific legislation with “education and legally [mandated] responsible pet owner practices.” A similar bill, HB 4035, was introduced and passed the Michigan House in 2020, but was later struck down after moving to the Senate.

In the U.K., the sale and ownership of certain breeds, including pit bulls, has been banned since 1991, with the passage of the law spurred by a spike in attacks by the breed over the preceding decade. Other dogs banned in the country include the Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.

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