SAN FRANCISCO (June 3, 2008) — San Francisco Ordinance No. 268-05 requires pit bull owners in San Francisco to have their dogs spayed or neutered, and imposes penalties on those who fail to comply. In Coalition of Human Advocates for K9’s and Owners (“CHAKO”) v. City and County of San Francisco, et al., Case No. 06-1887 MMC (N.D. Cal.), the plaintiffs challenged the validity of the ordinance, alleging that it violates numerous federal and state constitutional provisions, including the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the right to happiness protected by Article I, Section 1 of the California Constitution, and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
United States District Judge Maxine M. Chesney granted the City’s motion to dismiss all claims with the exception of the ADA claim. The parties have now settled that remaining claim, which will result in dismissal of the lawsuit. Under the terms of the settlement, the City has agreed not to enforce the pit bull sterilization ordinance against any person with a mobility-related disability who: (i) owned an unsterilized pit bull service dog at the time the ordinance was enacted; (ii) uses that unsterilized pit bull service dog to accommodate his/her mobility-related disability; and (iii) had registered his/her unsterilized pit bull service dog with the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control by the time the ordinance was enacted. Any person who does not fall within this specific category remains subject to the ordinance.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera stated that although he continues to believe the ordinance is fully valid, the settlement is in San Francisco’s best interest. “There is nothing about this ordinance that interferes with the ability of any disabled person to obtain assistance from service animals, and therefore it is fully consistent with the ADA,” Herrera said. “Nonetheless, I am pleased we could resolve the case in a manner that avoids even minimal disruption for any disabled person who might have used a pit bull service dog before the ordinance was enacted, while at the same time avoiding lengthy and expensive litigation.”
CHAKO opposes breed discrimination and furthermore believes the city’s ordinance unfairly discriminates against persons with disabilities who rely on service dogs in managing their daily lives. CHAKO believes that persons who do not have to live with disabilities often do not realize the significant and positive impact service dogs have on persons with disabilities. CHAKO’s founder Dawn Capp states, “While we are saddened that one of the nation’s most liberal cities has chosen to discriminate based on breed and has taken that a step further in advocating a restrictive view of the rights of disabled persons to use service dogs, we nevertheless feel that we are better served working to address these issues through a means other than lengthy and expensive litigation. We are pleased the city is open to a continued dialogue on these issues.”