In 2004, I sponsored the groundbreaking legislation that cracks down on irresponsible pit bull owners and protects the public from dangerous pit bulls. The legislation requires that pit bulls be muzzled when on public property in Boston and that owners post signs announcing the presence of a pit bull on private property. It also mandates that residents may not keep more than two pit bulls at any time.
Since the adoption of the ordinance, more than 2,100 pit bulls have been registered with the city of Boston and more than 500 fines have been issued for violations of the ordinance.
However, according to a Boston Herald story, four out of five violators of the pit bull ordinance have not paid the required fines. These violators currently owe the city of Boston more than $200,000.
At a recent hearing before the Boston City Council, we also learned that the collection rate for fines associated for violations of ALL of the city dog ordinances is less than 25 percent. These disappointing statistics are simply unacceptable. The reality is that the best way to get people to comply with our laws or ordinances that are violated is to hit them where it hurts the most, in the wallet. Holding people financially accountable for unlawful behavior encourages people to obey the laws. Further, it is especially important that the city collect the money it is owed in these dire fiscal times.
In an effort to strengthen our ability to enforce the dog ordinance laws as well as to create a new mechanism to actually collect the fines from people who break the laws, I filed a Home Rule Petition that has passed the Boston City Council and which would allow the city of Boston to place a lien on the property tax or excise tax of any person who has not paid the requisite fines for violating dog laws in the city. This petition is now pending before the state legislature. This new law would ensure that the city of Boston would actually collect 100 percent of the money it is owed and would show that we are serious about putting teeth in all our dog laws.
I strongly urge the Massachusetts Legislature to take action on this bill before the end of the current calendar year. This new tool will help the city better enforce its existing dog laws and will show the public that we take our ordinances and the collecting of the fines for violating these ordinances seriously.
Rob Consalvo is the Boston City Councilor for District 5.