I know the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution does not apply to the relationship between a state and its municipalities, but shouldn’t the spirit of it be kept? The text of the 10th Amendment is:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Basically the states can legislate anything that isn’t spelled out in the US Constitution. States have rights to govern themselves. Wouldn’t it make sense for that same concept to apply between a state and its municipalities? For example, when it comes to allowing dog breed bans?
I’m not arguing one way or the other for bans of a specific breed of dog. That isn’t the point. My point is that each city or town should have the right to create an ordinance to do it if they want to.
However, in their infinite wisdom, our General Assembly feels that it is a good use of their time to do otherwise. House Bill 5671 and Senate Bill 1011 would remove the municipalities ability to create a breed-specific ban on dogs.
My next question on this would be one of risk assessment. In my field of work, we assess risk and determine what are the odds of an event happening, what would the damage be if it does happen and what steps have we taken to reduce the likelihood of that event. If we know that a particular event is pretty likely, we take steps to reduce the possibility or properly set up infrastructure to deal with it when it does happen.
Clearly, a city like Pawtucket is aware that pit bulls are targeted by some owners to be trained wrong and train them to be aggressive. Again, my opinion is not about the dog, it’s about the lawmakers. Pawtucket assessed the risk, believed there was a high likelihood of someone getting bit or mauled by a pit bull and took steps to reduce that risk. The risk is known. Now the state has stepped in and tied the city’s hands. Eliminated the city’s ability to handle the risk, or to protect themselves.
My question now is if this law passes and the Pawtucket ban on pit bulls is reversed and then someone gets bit by an untrained or poorly trained pit bull in Pawtucket, is the state liable? If left alone, Pawtucket had the ban in place and the risk was reduced. If you know a risk is probable and remove protections from that risk, don’t you increase your own liability?
Let’s hope we never have to find out.