It's illegal to discriminate against dogs

August 18, 2014

This letter is in response to a letter in the Aug. 12 edition of the Cape Gazette which concerned a woman being threatened with eviction due to the alleged breed of her dog Zeus. Unfortunately, this discrimination is an all too common occurrence here is Sussex County, and I am writing to share my knowledge with others who may be in a similar situation.

When my community, White House Beach in Long Neck, decided to instill a no 'Pit Bull' policy, I reached out to Hetti Brown, executive director of the Office of Animal Welfare, who has extensive knowledge and experience with companion animals and the legalities of and for those animals. What I learned is that 'Pit Bull' is not a recognized breed by the AKC. The reason is because there is no standard to the type of dog labeled a 'Pit Bull' like there is for other breeds.

What is referred to as a 'Pit Bull' is in fact a mix of a variety of breeds resulting in a variety of shapes and sizes, hence the inability to standardize the breed. Because "Pit Bull" is not a recognized breed by the AKC one cannot point to a dog and legally call it a "Pit Bull" based on it's appearance alone the way you can point to a standard breed and call it a Labrador or Collie.

Labeling a dog "Pit Bull" in terms of eviction is one that should not hold up in court and the burden of proof should lie with the plaintiff meaning the landlord would have to prove the dog's breed, although the dog should not be discriminated against for appearance, but it's human held to responsible practices, and all dog incidents be handled equally and justly. (I use the word should rather than will or would because there are known biases in our court system regarding landlord/tenant issues and the law is not necessarily upheld properly.)

As for those living in land lease communities, I maintain that this type of discrimination is considered arbitrary rule enforcement which is illegal per the manufactured housing law. In the 10 years I have lived in my community, I have been personally or peripherally involved in at least 10 dog incidents, not one of which involved a "Pit Bull" type of dog. Some of the breeds were Labrador, Bull Mastiff, Collie mix, English Springer Spaniel and a variety of small dogs.

The incidents had absolutely nothing to do with breed and everything to do with the fact that the dogs were running loose and attacked other dogs, including my own dogs, who have been attacked three times.

Yet not one of these other breeds have had a policy prohibiting their residence in the community; arbitrary rule enforcement for which a resident can file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Unit of the AG's office. CPU is the office responsible for monitoring the Manufactured Housing Law.

And all residents have the ability and option of asking for a hearing with the aggressive dog panel. For more information on this contact the Office of Animal Welfare.

We must stop blaming the dogs for the irresponsibility of their humans and stop labeling, assuming and discriminating against a dog's appearance.

Lori Beinhauer
Long Neck

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