After surviving repeal efforts, Miami-Dade’s ban on pit bulls faces a lawsuit claiming the county law violates constitutional protections against governments seizing property.
Two nonprofits, including a group that pairs pit bulls with veterans in the Miami area, filed the federal suit against Miami-Dade, claiming their members are unfairly targeted by the county ordinance, which has been in effect for almost three decades.
County commissioners last year rejected an effort to repeal the ordinance, which passed in 1989 after a pit bull bit off part of the face of an 8-year-old girl in West Kendall. County voters endorsed the law in 2012 when a referendum to repeal the ordinance failed.
Advocates for the pit bull breed claim bans like Miami-Dade’s are based on faulty assumptions about the branch of the bulldog family that includes pit bulls. Defenders of the ban say it is needed to protect the public from a breed with a dangerous mix of powerful jaws and a history of being bred to attack.
Courts have generally upheld laws banning pit bulls, provided the government can prove the restrictions protect public safety.
In the federal lawsuit filed Oct. 11, as reported by NBC 6, the Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation and Blues for Vets claim Miami-Dade’s rule violates the U.S. Constitution by unfairly depriving pit bull owners of property — their dogs. By saying one breed of dog is illegal while the rest are authorized, Miami-Dade’s ban also violates pit bull owners’ right to due process, according to the suit.
“Defendant’s policy of forcing Plaintiffs’ members to surrender their companion and/or service animals to the city for destruction or to transfer their dogs to individuals who reside outside of Miami-Dade County, where there is no evidence that the animals posed a threat to public safety, violates Plaintiffs’ members’ liberty and property interests protected under the Fourteenth Amendment,” the suit reads.
Miami-Dade’s Animal Services agency had no immediate comment on the suit.