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Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds."
~ Orison Swett Marden

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October 10, 2007

Last week there was an opportunty for BSL history to be made and due to a complete lack of leadership, along with EBA and 89er ADBA Club money and support, it seems it may have been missed. I've tried to do what I can but ultimately this calls for more action than that which one person can effect alone. Here's the story:



I was watching the 10pm local news and the lead story1 was about a young man who was fined and whose dog was taken from him because it was a "pit bull mix" and supposedly in violation of city law (Del City, OK). Apparently a neighbor called in a tip to Animal Control while he was at work and they came right into his backyard and took the dog, as well as issuing him two 500$ tickets. I was surprised that the news reporter made no mention of the Statewide ban on restricting ownership of certain breeds and didn't even challenge the officer in the story on the overly broad language of the law, even disregarding it's illegality.

I called the News Station and spoke to a guy named Carter who sounded less than convinced and told me if I had any information I should email them. So I did. Here's the email that I sent:

Date:

Wed, 3 Oct 2007 20:37:50 -0700 (PDT)

From:

"pitchick" <pitchicksboards@(youknow).com>

Subject:

breed specific legislation prohibited by state law ATTENTION: Jordan Williams

To:

news[at]koco[dot]com

Greetings,

Per my discussion with Carter, please find enclosed specific reference to the Oklahoma State Statute prohibiting any legislation aimed at limiting one's ownership of any dog based strictly upon its breed or perceived breed (4 O.S. § 46 (B)). I am also including a link to Attorney General Drew Edmondson's opinion in July of this year affirming that municipalities may not identify specific breeds in restricting animal ownership within this state as "dangerous", using any method, direct or otherwise. I'm not quite sure why a reporter would not have investigated this prior to the article appearing on air. Media should challenge government when necessary, not just rubber stamp illegal proclamations because one is wearing a uniform.

Additionally I found it quite unbelievable that the Officer in the story said "it doesn't matter if they're a pit bull or not" while in the same sentence claiming the veracity of that portion of the illegitimate ordinance. I was just as surprised that Mr. Williams didn't challenge such a contradiction of their own statements.

Last, I would like to be put in contact with the young man profiled in your story this evening, if possible. I believe he was identified only as "Jason". You may pass on this email address or my phone number XXX-XXXX. My number is private so I share it only for that purpose or for your own follow up on this story.

Thank you,
(my real name)

REFERENCE:

B. Potentially dangerous or dangerous dogs may be regulated through local, municipal and county authorities, provided the regulations are not breed specific. Nothing in this act shall prohibit such local governments from enforcing penalties for violation of such local laws.

http://www.oscn.net/applications/oscn/deliverdocument.asp?id=64741
http://www.oscn.net/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=450986



I received this email in reply:

To:

pitchicksboards@(youknow).com

Subject:

Re: Fwd: breed specific legislation prohibited by state law ATTENTION: Jordan Williams

From:

"Jordan A Williams" <JAWilliams@(hearst).com>

Date:

Thu, 4 Oct 2007 14:36:11 -0500

(my real name) -

Thanks so much sharing this information with us. I spoke with the Attorney General's office this afternoon, and it is their opinion that state statute supersedes Del City's law. You're right. The ordinance is out of date and out of compliance with state law.

I'm in the process of sharing that information with Del City leaders.

I'll keep you posted.

Thanks,
Jordan

Jordan Williams
Reporter
Eyewitness News 5, KOCO-TV
405.478.6609 (Direct)
405.475.5252 (Main)
jawilliams@(hearst).com

 

So, during this time I also contacted a past president of the 89er club and also the EBA Treasurer Joan Morrison, who happens to live in Oklahoma, by both phone and forwarding these emails and including the Midwest City and Del City laws2 in word documents as well. I also received a phone call from the reporter and offered a bit more information that I had gathered from my phone conversation with Ms. Morrison regarding another woman that I was told is challenging the law after being ticketed and fined last year in the same city. I've always heard good things about Joan and had the pleasure of meeting her and her husband at last year's dog show. After receiving Jason's (the young man whose dog was confiscated) phone number from Mr. Williams I also contacted him and gave him what information and encouragement I could, including passing along Ms. Morrison's phone number, for which I had gotten her permission to do.

My email copied to, and reply from, Ms. Morrison:

From:

"Joan Morrison" <morrisons@xx(respect-her-privacy)xx.com>

Subject:

Re: breed specific legislation prohibited by state law

Date:

Thu, 4 Oct 2007 17:57:47 -0500

To:

"pitchick" <pitchicksboards@(youknow).com>

(my real name),

I think when the current case against Del City is finally settled - it's been in the courts almost a year now and that isn't unusual ‘“ Del City (hopefully) will back down. If the guy has a place for his dog to go, he can just wait out the storm. I don't know if EBA would want to fund another case in the same town when one is currently pending. We may have to put more money into that one. ADBA did not provide any financial assistance for this case and they weren't asked to at this time.

Joan

On Oct 4, 2007, at 2:58 PM, pitchick wrote:
> pitchick <pitchicksboards@(youknow).com> wrote:

>> http://www.koco.com/news/14268634/detail.html
>>
>> I tried to look for him in the phonebook. the only jason (his last name) was
>> disconnected and there's a shit load of j. xxxxx's. no email back
>> from koco either, no surprise eh.
>>
>> I thought this could be a good test of the law, which I looked up for
>> midwest city and del city. they've tried to evade the state
>> prohibition by never mentioning 'dangerous' in their laws but I think
>> they would probably still be struck down if a serious challenge was
>> waged, as why else would they ban such a breed and one lists them
>> right after any animal with a poisonous bite, lol. Maybe the kid
>> could contact the AG and see if he would act against the city on
>> behalf of the state. if you still have any decent friends that are
>> officers in the club maybe they could contact the AG in an Amica
>> capacity. maybe someone should contact the EBA (or hank greenwood
>> maybe) and see if they would hire a lawyer to try and handle it? I
>> doubt it, but maybe.
>> Just some thoughts.

Right after I had sent that I received the reporter's reply (above) and forwarded it to them both, to which I got this reply:

To:

"pitchick" <pitchicksboards@(youknow).com>

From:

"Joan Morrison" <morrisons@xx(privacy)xx.com>

Subject:

From Joan Morrison

Date:

Thu, 4 Oct 2007 18:03:48 -0500

Hello again - I'm surprised beyond words that Channel 5 actually
answered you and is (they say) contacting AGs office and Del City
leaders.

The Casey Davis (attorney) represents our defendant and he was an
assistant attorney general before he went into private practice. That
is not a problem - he is on our side.

I'm glad the AGs office is sticking to their guns. I would think that
at some time they (AG office) would have to come out and stand up for
the state law.

They wouldn't represent our defendant, but they could weigh in.
We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Joan

Later that evening, as promised and passed on to Joan and the former 89er president, the same channel ran a lead off story again stating that in fact the State AG had confirmed their opinion that the Midwest City and Del City laws were in violation of State Law and would not be upheld in court3. I also called my informal 89er contact by phone that afternoon after receiving all the above infortmation but prior to the 10pm broadcast and gave her all the above plus a bit and said that I thought someone should get ahold of the current club leadership and organize a benefit for this young man's defense, post haste. Not only would it assist this guy, but it would assist the club's and dog's image as well as keep this in the public eye as the same TV Station could be called upon and would likely provide coverage of such an event. I was told she'd make some calls that afternoon and get back to me.

I've received no return call from anyone. I feel like our dogs have been let down on so many angles and fronts in this situation. Why are we 'just waiting and hoping Del City will back down'? Why are we (and by this I mean all ADBA registered APBT owners, as well as anyone who has ever contributed to the EBA either directly or by entry into an ADBA show, through representation by the EBA (whom has collected large sums of money for just such causes)) not taking a pro-active stance in a situation where we finally seem on firm ground, and have the backing of the State's Attorney and clear law on our side? Not only could the EBA lead a ground-breaking, precedent setting charge with a Class Action Suit against the City, but the club could have gained quite a bit of good, positive, mind-changing publicity for the dog's and the club in addition to helping out a young (military I believe) man who needs help and wants to fight this injustice to him and his dog.

The reporter went to Del City City Hall that day and pulled all the tickets issued for this ordinance since January 2006, he was given record of 135 tickets with a minimum fine of 500$ each. I can't believe I'm the only one that sees the huge opportunity and merit in the idea that if the young man in the story wants to join this other woman's case they could start a class action and the other 135+ (the law goes back to 1991 and those 135 are just the last couple years) would then be free (and I bet likely) to join them. This sort of action could bring enough financial recovery that not only would the previous victims of this unjust law be compensated (for out of pocket costs as well as loss of their pet!), but the city would then be forced to stop enforcing it, in such a way that only monetary pain can do to a civic entity. United, and with the backing of the EBA and 89er ADBA Club (and maybe ADBA???), we could be strong and win this fight. Do we not need a win, and a clear one, on this, more so now than ever?

The ADBA gives some percentage of each and every show entry fee to the EBA. Oklahoma is one of the largest clubs and shows in the US. I can only guess at the huge sum the EBA has taken in from this region over the years and last I heard the 89er club (a supposed non-profit) wasn't hurting for cash either. Here, now, we had an opportunity for that to be given back in what can only be seen as an open and shut, slam dunk just cause for the betterment of our dogs and their owners and they apparently don't want to spend the money. I hope folks keep this and that in mind in their future support for these groups.


My only personal regret in this whole situation has been that I didn't anticipate the "we're just trying to protect our citizens from dangerous pit bulls" argument the city manager made on air that next evening while speaking to the reporter for the follow up story. I would have rebutted it as I do now: I'm all for protecting citizens from dangerous dogs, but just as the State Law infers, any dog can be dangerous and legal entities should act against those that are proven so and not define the term by breed and unfairly burden and condemn innocent people and their pets.

 

[1] http://www.koco.com/video/14265868/index.html
http://www.koco.com/news/14268634/detail.html

[2] Midwest City Ordinance (chapter 8 article IX)
Del City Ordinance (chapter 4 article IV sec 4 )

[3] http://www.koco.com/video/14274417/index.html
http://www.koco.com/video/14278802/index.html
p.s. this second story ran on thursday night and by friday the 'news' was overtaken by the ou vs. texas football game Undecided

^