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House OKs bill against pit bull bans

Published February 20, 2014 10:26 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The House narrowly passed a bill Thursday that would prevent cities from banning certain breeds of dogs, mainly pit bulls, despite concerns from some lawmakers about the Legislature keeping cities on too short of a leash.

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said 10 cities and towns currently had such bans in place, but there is no evidence to show that one breed of dog is more prone to violence than another. And it is impossible, he said, to draw a clear line on whether mixed-breed dogs would be allowed or not.

Some legislators, particularly former city officials, expressed concerns about the "heavy-handed" Legislature mandating to local governments what rules they can make.

House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said if the Legislature is going to keep cities from banning dog breeds, the state also has to impose some uniform policy on what happens in the event of dog attacks.

"If you're going to run a bill like this, you have to do it the whole way. You have to figure out how you're going to mitigate the circumstances when a dangerous animal attacks somebody," Hughes said.

Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, is a former mayor and a veterinarian, but said the restrictions on breeds are arbitrary and won't prevent dog bites.

"There is no way we're going to legislate total safety in society," he said. "This is not, in my mind, good policy, because there are too many unknowns and too much uncertainty."

And Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, said genetics never tell the whole story.

"I spent most of my life raising children and dogs and I can tell you in both cases the same breeding doesn't mean you'll get the same outcome," she said.

HB97 passed the House 43-28 and goes to the Senate for consideration.