Johanna Falber with metro Atlanta-based Stubby’s Heroes, which opposes legislation aimed at specific dog breeds, addresses the Albany City Commission at the downtown Government Center Tuesday. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — Johanna Falber was not exactly given the Chamber of Commerce red-carpet treatment by the Albany City Commission at that body’s work session Tuesday morning.
On the commission’s agenda to talk about the city’s proposed pit bull ordinance, Falber, the founder of the metro Atlanta-based Stubby’s Heroes organization that opposes what it calls “breed-discriminatory legislation,” told the board that it faces possible litigation if it moves forward with its proposed breed-specific ordinance that would force pit bull owners to register their animals, maintain a certain level of liability insurance and keep the animals in a specifically legislated enclosure.
“Fear is what drives these types of laws, not facts,” Falber said. “Targeting a breed of dog does not work.”
Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff, who said he had opposed the pit bull ordinance until the city’s Citizens Advisory Committee presented evidence that showed the incidences of maulings and deaths caused by the breed, took exception to Falber’s contention that statistics show pit bulls are not the most aggressive breed of dog.
“But the breed does matter to the general public here,” Langstaff, a lawyer, said. “There’s a very breed-specific fear in our community.”
Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell accused Falber of giving the commission “hearsay, not fact.” Postell later expressed opposition to Falber being allowed to speak at the meeting.
“I don’t think people from other communities should have the right to come in here and tell us what we should and shouldn’t do,” Postell said. “We’re capable of making our own decisions. We can’t have every Tom, Dick and Harry from other communities coming in telling us what to do.”
Ward III Commissioner B.J. Fletcher spoke up for Falber’s right to address the commission.
“I appreciate anybody bringing facts to us, no matter where they’re from,” Fletcher said. The Ward III commissioner had earlier asked if the board might table the matter until more information is gathered.
“I’ve seen the pictures (of local children mauled by pit bulls) that you’ve referred to, Madam Mayor,” Fletcher said to Mayor Dorothy Hubbard. “But this ordinance can’t be based on feelings. It must be based on facts. I’d really like to table this (a vote on the proposed ordinance is scheduled for the commission’s Feb. 25 night meeting) until we come up with a dog ordinance — not a pit bull ordinance — based on fact.”
Falber had told the board members that they would “miss the other (dog-related) problems in your community” if they chose to focus on only pit bulls.
“It’s people who are creating the issues, not the animals,” Falber said. “And those people are not going to follow your laws, they won’t even be aware of them.”
Ward II Commissioner Bobby Coleman said the discussion did little toward offering a solution to the city’s problem.
“We should be looking for solutions rather than saying the same things over and over,” the freshman commissioner said.