Christenson VETOES Pit Bull Law With Suggested Amendments

CORRECTION: Christenson sends feedback to council.

Note: This corrects an earlier article suggesting the mayor did not veto the measure. Malden Patch regrets the error. 

Mayor Gary Christenson said he would not sign a city council-approved bill that will require muzzles for newly registered pit bulls in the city, but offered some suggested amendments to the law he hoped would be considered by the councilors.

"The ordinance should be centered on how a dog behaves and not how a dog looks as I believe this legislation suggests," Christenson wrote to the council.

"Enforcement alone could be problematic as accurate visual recognition of a pit bull is all but impossible, and I could foresee legal challenges to determine a dog’s heritage.

"Furthermore, crafting an ordinance based on how a dog looks does not address the fact that 100 percent of the dog bites occurring between 2009 and 2012 were from dogs that were off-leash.

"The amendment I offer squarely addresses the behavior on the part of both the dog and the owner.

You can read the full letter here

The following is a summary of the proposals, provided by the mayor's office: 


  • The amendment does not contain breed specific language but muzzling remains an option for dogs of all breeds;
  • A new section was established dealing with irresponsible dog owners;
  • There is also a new section called “Potentially Dangerous Dogs” that enhances Paper 246 which currently only deals with dogs that bite or have a known propensity to bite. This new section would serve as a preventive measure where the Animal Control Officer would be allowed to get at dogs ahead of when they might bite and eventually be deemed “dangerous or vicious;”
  • Expanded the definition of what a dangerous or vicious dog is to include a dog’s mannerisms and for dogs owned or trained for dog fighting; 
  • There are provisions that address insurance and property owner notification that a potentially dangerous or dangerous or vicious dog resides at the property; 
  • Signage requirements have been added for both potentially and dangerous or vicious dogs; 
  • An “intimidation” provision has been added for both the irresponsible owner and aggressive dog; 
  • New sections have been added to address both indoor and outdoor confinement which goes beyond the fencing provision contained in Paper 246; and 
  • A licensing surcharge of $50 for dangerous or vicious dogs has been added and the penalty for non-compliance of the dangerous or vicious dog section has been increased to $300 per day. 

Jenn April 20, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Thank you Mayor Christenson!!!! it's nice to finally have a mayor that not only cares about public safety but about public opinion. BSL is a no go in Malden!!!!!
DannyBoy April 20, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Short of vetoing this new ordinance, I think these suggested amendments by the mayor are the next best thing. It remains to be seen whether or not the Kinnon-led city council will take them into consideration and amend the ordinance.
whatsup April 20, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Well thought letter, but please, Please, PLEASE do something about fining or making irresponsible dog owner who doesn't pick up after their dog. I am sick and tired of seeing dog poop on my lawn and sidewalks in the neighborhood. I hope once a date for the annual review of this ordinance is set they can address the disgusting issues of dog poop and feces left in other people's property.
Lori Sullivan April 20, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Yay for the Mayor to see right through this nonsense. Some total misrepresenting to the Mayor on some of the issues was happening, AND by someone who does not even own a pit, but owns a dog who is pretty aggressive and causes more problems at the dog park than any pit does. This person actually offered to go talk to the Mayor in favor of the pit ordinance, despite being the owner of an aggressive dog. Good to know. And glad to know the Mayor has the sense to come up with a better proposal. Punish the deed, not the breed!
Kim April 20, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Thanks to the Mayor who sees the whole picture. I am pleased to know the Mayor will make the right decisions for the city. Not for one persons vendetta
Doglover April 20, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Whatsup, Today you sound MUCH more reasonable! Did you really think about all that we said to you and realize you were out of line? What your post asks for today is very reasonable. As I said the other day, "dog people" hate seeing poop more than the "non-dog people" as we know it looks bad for all of us. There are lazy and irresponsible people in all aspects of life. I agree, "pick up after your pet" laws should be enforced better. Better yet, if anyone is reading this that does not pick up the poop......please start now!
Michael B Elvale April 20, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Nice job Mr Mayor, glad to see you wont be bullied by Neil. Whats up, you know about annual reviews huh?? Your starting to sound more and more like Neil
Melissa April 20, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Well done, Mayor Christenson.
David Marsters April 20, 2012 at 11:58 PM
What determines a vicious dog? A french poodle can be vicious if the owner trains them that way. I have had 3 rottweilers and I trained them to be the most loving dog for kids and grownups.
betty geist April 21, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Thank you Mayor Gary Christenson for taking the time to read or listen to your concerns. with all of this misrepresentation in the media. Bad publicity has created an atmosphere of fear around Pit Bulls We think that every owner of every dog, regardless of breed, should be accountable and responsible for their dog's behavior. Owning a dog is a great responsibility, not only regarding the care of the dog, but also regarding the dog's behavior toward other people.This was very wll said (The ordinance should be centered on how a dog behaves and not how a dog looks )I wish more citys and towns mayors Would think the way you do Thank you again
betty geist April 22, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Her is one sample that happen saturday This is a sad story for both the child and dog but if it was a pitbull the cops would of came with the guns out and shot. LAKEVILLE, Mass. -- A 5-year-old boy was recovering Saturday after Lakeville Police said he was bitten in the face by a dog. Officers responded to the call at a home on Crooked Lane at about 8:30 a.m. Police said the boy, who does not live in Lakeville, was taken to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, where he was treated for serious facial injuries. The dog, a yellow lab mix, was taken by animal control for quarantine purposes. It was unclear if the dog owner would face any charges, if any. Read more: http://www.thebostonchannel.com/news/30934414/detail.html#ixzz1smW1Uy4B
Walter Peck April 23, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Uh oh, better muzzle all yellow labs! Where do I go to start a petition for this ordinance?
DannyBoy April 26, 2012 at 06:53 PM
For those of you still interested in the follow up to the veto by mayor Christenson on this pit-bull muzzling law, here's an article on Boston.com that highlights the recent vote by councilors on overriding the mayor's veto (link: http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/malden/2012/04/malden_city_council_to_reevalu.html). You can see for yourself how each councilor voted.
betty geist April 26, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Thanks Dannyboy Here one more http://malden.advocatenews.net/council-takes-a-bite-out-of-dog-muzzle-ordinance-10-1/ And here a little piece of Councillor Kinnon said, “I am sad and disappointed that the Mayor, who I respect greatly, missed the opportunity to make our city a safer and more desirable place to live by vetoing the pit bull ordinance. The supposed amendment he sent back provides nothing more than our current ordinance on dogs in Chapter 9 section 16 through 25 and is an attempt to make people believe somehow he is proposing something that will make them safer. Sixty percent of all disfiguring and fatal dog attacks nationally are committed by this breed when they make up five percent or less of the dog population. A pit bull bite is not a typical dog bite. The Mayor’s proposal to classify dogs as vicious only after they have bitten is like the person who knows they have high cholesterol saying they are going to take care of themselves after they have their first heart attack.”
Lori Sullivan April 27, 2012 at 06:05 PM
To further support the argument that ALL dogs can be vicious, read this article in the news about the lovely and well mannered lab/retriever mix........ http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/20/11312694-coroners-nightmare-dog-dismembers-2-month-old-child
Diana April 27, 2012 at 06:16 PM
"The Mayor’s proposal to classify dogs as vicious only after they have bitten is like the person who knows they have high cholesterol saying they are going to take care of themselves after they have their first heart attack.” More accurately, Kinnon's proposal to muzzle a specific breed of dog because he thinks they're scary is akin to taking unprescribed Lipitor because you're afraid that you MIGHT have high cholesterol. Ignorance has some nasty side effects.


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