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House perfects bill banning breed-specific dog laws

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The House perfected legislation restricting breed-specific laws (BSLs) on dogs Wednesday. 

Rep. David Gregory’s HB 2241, which has been joined with HB 2244, would prohibit local governments from passing and enforcing regulations on dogs in a breed-specific manner. Nearly 50 municipalities in Missouri have BSL laws on the books now, according to the American Society for the Prevention of the Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA). 

Members of the ASPCA, including Andy Briscoe, the organization’s director of state legislation for the Central region, advocated for the bills in the Capitol today. 

“The national trend has been to repeal these pit bull bans over the past couple of years,” Briscoe told The Missouri Times. “We’ve seen repeals in Springfield, Liberty, Prairie Village [in] Kansas, so regionally we’re marching that way. So the thought going into session was: Instead of doing this in silos, why not build a coalition of folks who might normally disagree on policy, why not work together to find the sponsors and push the bills and move forward, and that’s how it has advanced.” 

HB 2244, originally sponsored by GOP Rep. Ron Hicks, was substituted by Gregory’s bill in February. Both representatives testified in session Wednesday in favor of the legislation. Hicks has championed this issue previously in the General Assembly. 

“This bill is about all breeds, not just pit bulls or German shepherds,” Gregory said on the House floor. 

“If you go back to the Civil War time, bloodhounds were the dangerous breed,” he said. “They were prohibited because they were the dangerous breed. Then in the sixties, German shepherds were the dangerous breed. We started trying to legislate for them because they were the only dangerous dog. Then it was the Dobermans, then the Rottweilers, now it’s pit bulls. It doesn’t work.” 

BSL is opposed nationally by the American Bar Association, National Canine Research Council, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), among other organizations, the ASPCA noted. The CDC cites difficulty in identifying breeds and a general inaccuracy of data on dog bites as the basis for its opposition. Among the organizations that testified for the legislation in committee are the Animal Justice League, Humane Society, and Missouri Pet Breeders Association, among others. 

“It looks like it has momentum behind it and support in the Senate,” Briscoe said. “The concerns raised in the past we’ve been able to address and put a finer gloss on it, so I’m hopeful that it gets across the finish line this session.”