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Sunday, 23 April 2017

MFOA Testimony in Opposition to L.D. 858 “An Act To Strengthen the Law Regarding Dangerous Dogs” Print E-mail
Written by MFOA   
Thursday, 06 April 2017

Testimony of Robert Fisk, Jr.
President and Director, Maine Friends of Animals
In OPPOSITION of L.D. 858 "An Act To Strengthen the Law Regarding Dangerous Dogs"

Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
April 6, 2017

Senator Davis, Representative Dunphy, and distinguished members of the Committee:

My name is Robert Fisk, Jr. I am President and Director of Maine Friends of Animals, the state's leading animal protection organization. On behalf of our 1,500 members statewide, I am writing in opposition to L.D. 858, "An Act To Strengthen the Law Regarding Dangerous Dogs."

It is a tragedy for all involved when a dog bite incident occurs that results in injury (or worse) to a human or another companion animal. In order to keep our communities safe, it is important for Maine to have strong, but fair and effective laws concerning dogs deemed dangerous. However, as written, L.D. 858 does not accomplish the goal of safety in a reasonable, humane and cost effect manner.

The proposed bill offers only two options for dogs deemed dangerous: life time confinement to a kennel in a municipal shelter, humane society or similar facility, or euthanasia.

A life time sentence to "dog jail" with no option of "parole" or rehabilitation is not only inhumane to the dog, but expensive and would place a significant strain on Maine's shelter system, taking space and resources away from stray and homeless animals in need.

There is no "one size fits all" solution to the issue of dangerous dogs, which is why the current law allows for due process and evaluation of both the incident in question and the dog's historical temperament.

Court mandated euthanasia is already one option available under Maine's current dangerous dog law and should remain for severely aggressive dogs that have been properly evaluated, temperament tested, and are not candidates for rehabilitation.

However, the other options that exist under current law (muzzling/leashing in public and restricted to secure, fenced-in enclosures at home) should be kept in place for instances when a dog is deemed dangerous, but a dog bite has not actually occurred (under the existing law, a bite incident is not required for dangerous dog charges to be filed, only the threat of a possible bodily harm is needed).

Additionally, alternative options to life time kenneling or death should be available for dog bites that are singular offenses caused by unusual circumstances (dog is injured or in pain when touched, resulting in a bite, dog is threatened or defending itself from another animal or human, etc.) and when the dog is considered to be salvageable. Scheduled follow up visits by local animal control officers or authorities need to occur after the court decision to ensure the restrictions are in place and followed long term.

The tragedies which inspired the creation of this bill show that change may be needed. However, we must consider that the bad behavior of a dog that results in injury, death and damage is a direct reflection of the prudence and abilities of the dog owner, not necessarily the nature of the dog. Life time confinement in a shelter or euthanasia may take a dog deemed dangerous out of the neighborhood, but do nothing to rectify the irresponsible actions of the dog owner, who could easily bring another dog into the home and repeat the same pattern.

Moving forward in modifying Maine's dangerous dog laws, a stronger focus should be placed on enforcing existing companion animal laws (i.e., dogs at large), encouraging responsible pet ownership through education and training, and holding irresponsible dog owners to a higher level of accountability and penalty under the law.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I encourage the Committee to vote "Ought Not To Pass" on L.D. 858.

 

 
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