A Dog Of A Case

In Mobile county:

The fate of Spencer the pit bull — life in an adopted home or death — remained an open question Friday as a Mobile judge pondered what to do with the homeless canine.

Since his emergence in the public eye May 30 as he wandered down a Midtown street, the weak, dehydrated creature has been transformed into a local celebrity and the cause of a mini-movement.

A hearing in Mobile County Circuit Court on Friday was filled with the pit bull's supporters, wearing T-shirts imploring the world to "Save Spencer."

Downstairs in the lobby of Government Plaza, in a display set up by folks advocating adoption of stray critters, a pen had been set up. Inside the enclosure was a passel of puppies.

Up on the eighth floor of the building's north tower, Circuit Judge Rick Stout presided as Mobile city attorneys squared off with lawyers for Amanda Kramer, who wants to adopt Spencer. She had won a temporary restraining order to keep animal shelter personnel from putting the dog to sleep.

Mobile Animal Shelter personnel, as a long standing matter of policy, do not allow pit bulls to be adopted out, or any other animal who in their judgment could pose a threat to either people, or other animals, according to director Bill Fassbender.

About 60 pit pulls come through the shelter each year, according to a city official. All are put to sleep unless reclaimed by their original owners.

Personally, I think pit bulls have gotten a bad rap. Raised properly, they are fine pets. They are not inherently more aggressive than other breeds. They are, however, compared to other breeds, much stronger and more often taught to use that strength in harmful ways. (You can read more here). The problem with pit bulls (as with most bad dogs) is bad owners.

That does not mean the shelter's policy is wrong. They do not know who owned these dogs. Hence, they do not know if the dog has been properly trained. Thinking better safe than sorry, the shelter errs on the side of 'aggressive.'  

Regardless of the wisdom of the policy, what really caught my attention here was the fact that this is in circuit court. I may be missing the obvious, but I cannot figure out how the would be adopter managed to turn this into a legal issue. There was no contract, and surely she is not asserting a constitutional right to adopt the dog. So on what basis is she arguing that the animal shelter has to allow her to adopt the dog? If you have any idea, please let me know.

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3 Comments on “A Dog Of A Case”

  1. Dan Says:

    Have you moved here, then? Aren’t the files of the circuit court part of the public record. While I wouldn’t know where to look for such information (although I would find out if something really bugged me), I’m sure a lawyer like yourself does.

    I’d be interested in seeing the argument.

  2. Kathy Says:

    I know nothing about the legal aspects of the adoption, but I do know that shelters can put animals through a series of tests to determine their adoptability. They should also be able to put criteria in place for certain types of dogs (e.g., no young children in the adoptive home). This particular shelter, like many others, is likely underfunded and understaffed and certainly doesn’t want to open itself up for a lawsuit, so I guess they forego the testing in favor of the cheaper way out. It’s too bad they felt the need to make a blanket policy regarding one particular breed. I wonder if the policy applies to dogs of mixed breed or thoroughbred pit bulls only — and how would they know anyway?

    Perhaps the outcry over Spencer will move them to revisit their policy.


  3. [...] My question is answered: Spencer the pit bull is back on death row. [...]


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