A Pennsylvania appeals court has muzzled an out-of-control Reading city ordinance that required pit bulls -- and other dogs deemed "dangerous" on the basis of their breed -- be subject to restrictions that included being kept on three-foot leashes when outside the home.
The divided Commonwealth Court decision sided with two pit-bull owners -- Stacie Stankiewicz and Kenneth Steeves Sr. -- who have been fighting the city ordinance since it passed eight years ago.
The court threw out the law because it conflicted with, and was preempted by, a state law defining what makes a dog "dangerous." The state law is not "breed specific."
The Reading ordinance was among the strictest and most backward in the country, defining aggressive dogs as those that are -- even partly -- of a breed that accounted for 40 percent or more of dog-bite incidents reported in the city during the prior year. It required such dogs, when outside the home, be muzzled and kept on a leash shorter than three feet, and required their owners to pay higher fees to register them.
Violation of the ordinance was punishable with fines of up to $1,000 or 30 days in jail.
"The absurdity was that dangerous dog breeds changed from year to year, based on the dog-bite statistics -- that was the crux of the lawsuit," Al Kauffman, attorney for plaintiffs, said in an Associated Press account of the ruling.