Fall River ‘Ban’ on Pit Bulls Draws Federal Suit | Courthouse News Service
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Fall River ‘Ban’ on Pit Bulls Draws Federal Suit

MADISON, Wis. (CN) - The owner of two rescue dogs in rural Wisconsin has filed a federal complaint against Fall River's law on keeping pit bulls.

Madelyn Wissell Buchda says she does not even know how to define her dogs' breeds since she rescued Thor from a "backyard breeder" and Diesel from a family that could not afford to surrender the dog to a shelter.

Characterizing the dogs as mostly bulldog-boxer mixes, Buchda says they have lived with her in Fall River since 2011.

Fall River subjects the owners of pit bulls to various regulations, however, and Buchda received two citations on Dec. 13, 2013, for violating the village's ordinance, according to the Feb. 26 complaint.

Buchda says she brought the dogs to a foster home outside the village's jurisdiction so that she could to read the ordinance over and understand how to proceed, "fearful of what the village might do to Thor and Diesel."

The law prohibits bit bull dogs from the village, but Buchda says "the language of the ordinance made it clear that there was no way for an owner to determine whether his or her dog was banned pursuant to the terms of the ordinance because it had two definitions of pit bulls, one requiring the appearance or characteristics of being predominantly three named breeds (Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, and American pit bull terrier), and another which stated that a dog would be banned if it was 'or any combination of those breeds." (Emphasis in original.)

Buchda says the latter provision implicates dogs that are just 1 percent pit bill.

Calling such breed-specific legislation unconstitutional, Buchda says the evidence is on her side.

"The state of science in 2013, including American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club standards, renders purebred and mixed-breed bans, such as the one provided in the ordinance at issue, not rationally related to any government purpose, and they are certainly not the least restrictive means available to manage dogs not proven hazardous by prior harm-causing vicious propensity," according to the complaint.

Buchda says village officials verbally ordered her to remove Thor and Diesel from Fall River, and that she continues to board the dogs at her expense "under threat of the village impounding and then euthanizing Thor and Diesel."

The complaint demands a preliminary injunction and a finding that that the law in question is unconstitutional.

Buchda's attorney, Richard Rosenthal, is a Queens, N.Y.-based, self-proclaimed "dog lawyer" and expert on dangerous dog law.

Buchda says she obtained licenses for Diesel and Thor on Dec. 10, 2013. "Thor and Diesel were regarded by Plaintiff as both sentient personalities and as immediate family members," the complaint states. "Thor and Diesel are companion animals, have never bitten any person or animal, have no animal control history or complaints, [and] are not aggressive."

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