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Research Problem #1
Jennifer adopted Buddy, a neutered pitbull-looking mix from Kansas City, MO, humane society. Buddy is up to date on all of his vaccinations, including rabies. Kansas City does not maintain a pitbull ban. The shelter and Jennifer are unable to sufficiently identify what breed Buddy actually is. He has a blocky head, but could be a mix of any number of breeds. He is much smaller than the average staffordshire terrier. Buddy has passed a canine good citizen test and is a therapy dog. She moves to Springfield, MO which passed a breed-specific ban against pitbulls in 2011.
Jennifer’s next-door neighbor sees Jennifer walking Buddy one evening and is struck with fear because she believes Buddy to be a pitbull, and therefore a danger to the entire neighborhood, particularly the children. Buddy has bitten no one, barked at no one, and has never left Jennifer’s property unattended or unleashed. The neighbor reports Jennifer immediately to the local authorities, who promptly seize Buddy from her residence. Jennifer has lived in Springfield for 10 days.
You are Jennifer’s lawyer. How do you proceed?
1. Read through the pertinent city ordinance. This are usually easily obtained through a google search to the city's website.
2. Check practice guides authored by other attorneys to see how they have approached the problem.
Research Starting Points
80 A.L.R.4th 70
: Validity and construction of statute, ordinance, or regulation applying to specific dog breeds, such as "pit bulls" or "bull terriers”
Sec. 18-95. - "Prohibition of pit bull dogs. It shall be unlawful for any person to own, possess, keep, exercise control over, maintain, harbor, transport, or sell within the city any pit bull.
Pit bull means any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more of the above breeds, or any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club for any of the above breeds. The A.K.C. and U.K.C. standards for the above breeds are on file in the office of the city clerk." (Source: Animal Legal and Historical Center)
Contest the classification of Buddy as a pitbull at the hearing. The only characteristic he shares with the AKC standard is his blocky head. Emphasize all other physical attributes and how they differ from the breed standard. Also emphasize the good characteristics of Buddy’s demeanor, his therapy dog status, and his good citizenship certificate. This may not matter, but it is worth highlighting when distancing him from the pit bull breed. Obtain both the AKC and UKC standards prior to the hearing to contemplate strategy and argument.
Jennifer still has 20 days to register with the city and comply with stringent regulations (Sec. 18-98) as to his keeping and care. Advise her to begin the registration process with the Springfield city manager’s office immediately.