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End local bans on dog breeds, leave freedom and responsibility to owners – MLive.com

David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc Township, represents Michigan's 14th Senate District.

State Sen. David Robertson

By State Sen. David Robertson

As Americans, we value the individual freedoms that allow us to choose what house to buy, what pet to own and what car to drive. These individual rights are currently in jeopardy at a local level in our state. In recent years, local ordinances have been passed throughout Michigan that infringe on residents' personal freedoms by prohibiting the ownership of certain breeds of dog.

Those in favor of banning certain dog breeds claim that some breeds or mixed breeds are more dangerous than others by nature, a statement that simply isn't supported by any science. Every dog is its owner's responsibility, and it is the responsibility of the owner to train them to be well-behaved, and not to harm others.

Owners of dangerous animals should undoubtedly be punished when that animal demonstrates aggressive behavior. But the punishments should be based precisely on that — actual behavior, not on misinformed prejudice against a certain breed. To do otherwise fosters an environment of overregulation and arbitrary local policies.

To combat these overreaching local actions, I introduced Senate Bill 239, which was supported overwhelmingly by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the Michigan Senate. The legislation, which would protect individual property rights by prohibiting breed discrimination, now moves on to the House. I am confident my colleagues in that chamber will see the common-sense approach and support it.

Michigan wouldn't be the first to support this common-sense legislation; 19 states have passed similar measures. The state of Ohio, which in 1987 deemed one breed of dog as vicious, repealed that provision in 2012.

Beyond the personal infringement of local ordinances, they are entirely ineffective and only inflict additional costs on Michigan taxpayers. Economist John Dunham & Associates found that if the state of Michigan enacted a breed discriminatory provision against pit bull terriers, local residents would foot an added expense of more than $15 million a year in enforcement.

We need to hold pet owners accountable regardless of breed and protect our individual property rights by prohibiting breed-discriminatory dog ordinances on a local level. Such local ordinances are arbitrary and do nothing more than create needless bureaucracy and expenses.

Do you have a guest column on a statewide topic to share? Email Opinion Curator Dan Hawkins at dhawkins@mlive.com. And be sure to check out our guidelines for submission.

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