A service animal owner contacted Disability Rights Arkansas for assistance with her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding her service animal. Her service animal is an American Pit Bull Terrier. The city where she lived had enacted a “vicious breed ordinance” which bans all dogs of certain breeds within the city’s limits. The city’s animal control officers picked up the service animal and took it to animal control’s kennel. The owner was cited for violation of the vicious breed ordinance, without any allegation of vicious behavior by the animal. This deprived the service animal’s owner of access to the needed service animal, but also caused her to fear for her dog’s well-being and life.
Many cities have enacted ordinances regarding vicious breeds, but the blanket application of these ordinances against service animals is unlawful under the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to the United States Department of Justice, local ordinances banning breeds solely because of the animal’s breed cannot apply to service animals. This does not prevent local animal control officials from actions taken to protect the public when a service animal can be shown to be actually vicious.
To assist the service animal owner, Disability Rights Arkansas staff contacted the city and provided them with information from the United States Department of Justice regarding the unlawfulness of the vicious breed ordinance’s application against service animals who are not alleged to be actually vicious. City officials confirmed that the service animal owner’s Pit Bull was not in fact vicious, and returned the animal to its owner.
If your city has enacted a vicious breed ordinance that threatens the use of your service animal, please do not hesitate to contact us. Remember, too, that just as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the use of service animals in public settings, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects the use of service and companion animals in residential settings.