Moore on Maumelle: BSL special edition

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For the second time in two years, Maumelle’s City Council is considering an ordinance to repeal a ban on residents owning pit bulls in the city. Council Member Chad Gardner is sponsoring the ordinance again, which will have its second reading at tonight’s City Council meeting. Gardner was kind enough to do an online interview with me regarding the pending ordinance. 

As the city and state faces many critical issues, why would you introduce an ordinance to change the BSL (breed specific legislation) ordinance?

Each week, the council has a lengthy list of varying agenda items that we discuss at each meeting. Our council is more than capable of handling multiple topics at each meeting, so I didn't see a need to sit on this and wait for a better time.  Agenda items come and go as we work our way through them throughout the month, so I decided to go ahead and put this forward for the council to consider.

Did you arrange or inform Eva Palmer to appear at the council meeting to present her “findings?” Do you plan to have someone appear to present an opposing view?

Ms. Palmer reached out to me in 2019 after she learned of Maumelle's BSL repeal efforts.  She was interested in the topic of Breed Specific Bans and decided to pursue this subject as her Girl Scout Gold Award project. This is the highest achievement a Girl Scout can earn, so I appreciated that she felt strongly enough about this subject to research it over the course of several years and develop materials to educate and inform the public. She and I have been in contact over the past year as she asked my opinion on ways she could share her findings and help raise awareness.  In January of this year, I let Ms. Palmer know I planned to reintroduce a revised ordinance that would repeal BSL in Maumelle.  As part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she is tasked to find ways to publish her findings and raise awareness of her research and conclusions.  I let her know that residents are welcome to speak at any council meeting on agenda or non-agenda items and this would be an excellent opportunity for her to share her conclusions with the council.  She's put a great deal of time into studying this subject and I greatly appreciated her sharing her thoughts with the council. It's important for the council to hear from all residents on any issue that they want to come and speak about.  I'd encourage everyone to watch the city of Maumelle's website as we post our meeting agendas by the Friday in advance of each meeting.  If you want to come and speak on any of the agenda items, citizens are always welcome to do so.  It's good for the council to hear different sides of each issue so we can take those into account as we vote on agenda items.  If there are residents that want the breed-specific ban to stay in place, then they should absolutely come and share their thoughts with the council.

Don’t you feel that the examination of this ordinance might be better served by an independent task force and a referendum?

This subject has been examined over the past two decades by experts in the animal field and numerous reputable organizations have come to the conclusion that breed specific bans do not make communities safer.  It gives residents a false sense of security that their community is safe from dog bites if certain dogs are not allowed. In Maumelle, we consistently have more dog bites from Labradors and German Shepherds.  Should we ban those dogs?  Those breeds are the ones responsible for most dog bites year after year so it would make sense that Maumelle would be safer if those breeds weren't allowed.  That would make Maumelle look pretty backwards if we banned the Labrador though since it's the most popular dog in America.  This just goes to show that banning specific breeds is not an effective tool to make our community safer.  To answer your question, I trust the experts in the field (American Veterinary Medical Association, Humane Society of the United States, and numerous others including the United States Center for Disease Control) who all agree that breed-specific bans are ineffective and not recommended for preventing dog bites.  If the experts have come to this conclusion after years of study, I'm comfortable changing this law here in Maumelle through the action of the city council.

Is this the best use of the Council’s time and energy?

As I mentioned in my earlier answer, the council handles numerous topics on a week-to-week basis and this topic takes just as much time as the other ones do in each meeting. I'm confident in the abilities of my peers on the council to review and discuss multiple topics on a weekly basis.  Just because a few might see this subject as a waste of time, I see it as a waste of time for Maumelle Animal Services to enforce a law that's been proven by experts as an ineffective tool for preventing dog bites.  I'm certain the city council is more than capable of handling and discussing multiple topics at each council meeting 

Do you have any concerns that issue will unnecessarily be divisive to both the Council and the citizenry?

Honestly, I don't see this issue as being divisive.  This subject was not even on my radar until early 2019.  I didn't know that Maumelle banned specific breeds and was surprised to learn that there was such a thing as breed bans in various cities.  This repeal was driven by the residents and I was more than happy to sponsor this legislation after I reviewed the subject for myself and came to my own conclusions about the ineffectiveness of breed bans.  The vast majority of residents that have emailed the council the past few weeks (as well as in 2019) have been in support of the repeal.  I've not done a tally of my email yet, but it's probably 80-90% of residents that have contacted us to say they support the repeal.  While there are a few residents that are vocally against changing the law regarding breed bans, an overwhelming percentage are in favor of the change.  So, when people ask me why this issue is so divisive, I tell them that it's my opinion that this isn't a divisive issue.  When such a large percentage of residents are in support of changing it, I don't see it as divisive.

While it would likely be virtual, do you plan to have any kind of community meeting or town hall to discuss BSL?

This issue will continue to be discussed at future council meetings and I'd encourage all citizens to attend in person or watch via social media and listen to the discussion that takes place.  This issue isn't something that's Maumelle-specific.  Numerous cities nationwide have come to the conclusion that these breed bans are ineffective and have repealed their laws regarding this.  Additionally, 21 states have passed laws that prevent breed-specific bans like we have here in Maumelle.  If 21 states (and legislation pending in additional states) have come to the conclusion that these breed bans are outdated and archaic, then I'm comfortable moving forward with this legislation in Maumelle and joining our neighboring cities who do not ban specific breeds.

Do you plan or would you consider tabling the legislation until more information is gathered from the community?

I have no plans to table the ordinance, but I would certainly welcome input from residents and my fellow council members.  Effective legislation should include the back-and-forth exchange of ideas about how we can make our laws work better.  If other council members want to suggest changes and / or additions to my proposed ordinance, then I would welcome those ideas. I would appreciate council members doing their due diligence on this subject as well as all matters we consider.  If they have other ideas to improve the ordinance, then I would welcome them.  I would encourage residents and our council to reach out to Animal Services and spend time talking with them about how we enforce our animal ordinances. This ordinance is designed to make it easier for Animal Services to do their job and make our community safer by enforcing laws that can prevent dogs from biting in the future.

You attempted this previously, and it was rejected, what's the reasoning to take another swing?

As I mentioned earlier, the response from the public was overwhelmingly positive in 2019.  It was the same percentage then that supported it as it is now based on responses I've received.  We have new members on the council this year and I felt it was important for me to bring this back up again since residents have been passionate about seeing this law changed.  This is truly an initiative that has been led by residents of Maumelle and if they have identified laws that they want to see changed, then I'm happy to sponsor that legislation after I've also studied it and come to the same conclusion

Have you heard from people who would have moved to Maumelle but didn't because of the laws on the books?

In 2019, I received several emails from individuals that would have moved to Maumelle until they found out their family pet wouldn't be allowed.  Additionally, a family had arranged to purchase a house here, but had to back out of their home purchase after being made aware of our breed ban.  I'm also aware of other individuals that work in Maumelle on a daily basis but have to live outside of our city due to our breed ban. I'm sure they would appreciate living in Maumelle, so they'd have a shorter commute to their job here in our city. Our neighboring cities of Conway, Cabot, and Little Rock allow all dog breeds so other cities have looked at this issue over the years and decided there was no need for a breed ban.  If our neighboring cities can make it work, so can Maumelle.

I think you can count on things heating up at the next few Council meetings. If you have comments on this topic, I encourage you to email your Council member. All email addresses are listed on the city’s website, Maumelle. org. Also, feel free to make comments on this article. Thanks for reading.

See you on the Boulevard. 

Neal Moore is a public relations consultant and resident of Maumelle. Send your Maumelle news or comments to neal.moore@sbcglobal.net. Thanks, PJ. 

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