Friday, June 15, 2012

No (Pit) Bull

DeKalb County, Georgia has a zoning* ordinance regarding the keeping of household pets. Until recently, the ordinance defined the term "household pets" to specifically exclude, among other animals, pit bulls. The general public understood this ordinance to ban the ownership of pit bulls by any DeKalb County resident.**

The problem? The term "pit bull" was not defined anywhere in that ordinance or any other DeKalb County ordinance, and “pit bull” it not a recognized breed of dog. The term "pit bull" generally refers to American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and mixed dogs of those breeds.

Thus, because the term "pit bull" is not a recognized breed of dog and has no legal definition, DeKalb County was never able to enforce the ordinance.

Apparently every citation written for ownership of a pit bull later was dismissed because the DeKalb County courts found the ordinance was vague and, therefore, unenforceable.  In May 2012, DeKalb County finally removed the "pit bull" language from the zoning ordinance.  

This is just another example of how sloppy legal drafting led to a confusing and unenforceable law. As Albert Einstein noted, "Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law than passing laws which*** cannot be enforced."

*It remains unclear why this apparent attempt to ban the ownership of pit bulls was put into DeKalb County's zoning ordinances rather than, for example, its animal control ordinances.

**Whether it actually did so is questionable. A careful reading of this ordinance shows that it did not ban ownership of pit bulls. It simply excluded pit bulls from the definition of the term "household pets."

***See my post entitled "That Which Does Not Kill Us." This "which" should be a "that." No matter--the sentiment is well-taken.

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