NEWS: House passes bill to ban breed specific legislation

By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News

The Rhode Island House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would ban breed specific legislation in the state.

The bill would prevent cities and town from implementing rules, regulations or ordinances relating to a specific breed of dog or cat.

The floor manager for the bill, chairwoman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Providence) said no one testified against the bill during its committee hearing. She said it was an important piece of legislation backed by animal advocates, former RISPCA members and current animal control workers.

Some of Ajello’s fellow representatives, even those who identified themselves as animal advocates, spoke in opposition of the bill, saying that municipalities should be able to make their own decisions.

Rep. Patrick O’Neill (D-Pawtucket), a former pit bull owner, explained that his city has an ordinance that prevents residents from owning pit bulls.

“Pit bulls are weapons, and can be used that way,” he said.

He said that vicious dog hearings only take place after a bite, and the ordinance in his city was a proactive step to prevent such attacks.

“I’m not willing to wait for that attack,” he said. “Pit bulls can cause a lot of damage.”

Other Representatives, like Rep. James McGlaughlin (D-Cumberland), said it's not the dog’s fault, it’s the owner’s fault.

When Speaker Gordon Fox noted that McGlaughin sounded like he wanted to ban owners, and not the dogs, McGlaughlin said he’d like to. Another representative humorously seconded his motion.’

Though the debate was mostly serious, there were some lighthearted moments.

“Will this affect my cockatoo?” asked Rep. William San Bento (D-San Bento).

“Only if it fights,” quipped Speaker Fox.

Supporters of the bill argued that the breed doesn’t make a dog aggressive, it’s the owner.

“Pit bulls can be delightful, previous and gentle dogs,” said Rep. Art Handy (D-Cranston).

The bill ultimately passed 59-9.