A bill that would have prevented municipalities from passing local laws that prohibit residents from owning particular breeds of dogs and cats failed in the Arkansas House after lengthy and passionate debate.
Rep. RJ Hawk (R-Bryant), the sponsor of House Bill 1519, said, “Everyone wants safe communities, but breed bans have been proven time and time again to be unsuccessful.” They’re ineffective, costly and constitutionally suspect, he said.
He said local governments should pass laws like Little Rock’s that target dangerous dogs rather than specific breeds.
Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R-Knoxville) offered several gruesome stories of Arkansans being mauled by pitbulls. “I believe this legislation is not in the best interest of our constituents,” he said. “Pitbulls are notorious for their aggressive behaviors.” We can’t ignore the fact that even well-trained pitbulls have been known to attack, he said.
Rep. Carlton Wing (R-North Little Rock) said breed bans give the public a false sense of security and that cross breeding makes the issue difficult to police.
“We’re getting to a point and dictating where we’re telling the cities and counties what to do,” Rep. Jim Wooten (R-Beebe) said. “They’re closer to their constituents. Folks, let the local people take care of their businesses. We’ve got enough to take care of down here without us forcing other things down their throat.”
Rep. Marcus Richmond (R-Harvey) said the focus on pitbulls reminded him of how people often blame the AR-15 during a mass shooting. “A freaking chihuahua is one of the worst animals I’ve ever dealt with in my whole life,” he said. “They will literally chew your eye out if they don’t like you.”
“It’s tragic to say that you can’t have these dogs,” he said. “If we’re going to try to prevent things and save lives, where’s the legislation to get rid of freaking cars?”
Reps. Matt Brown (R-Conway) and Jimmy Gazaway (R-Paragould) both offered anecdotes about horrific dog attacks. Brown talked about a 9-year-old Faulkner County boy who was killed by two pitbulls in 2020. He also noted that military bases don’t allow pitbulls and other aggressive breeds.
Hawk, a former sports radio personality, gave a truly deranged closing. He said “it was funny” that Pilkington’s solemn and graphic testimony about dogs ripping up people’s limbs sounded exactly like his testimony for bills that restricted abortion in the past. He also said Brown was lying about the military base prohibition.
The bill failed 34-45 with 11 not voting and 10 voting present (same as no). A motion to expunge the vote failed.