Our efforts To fight discrimination 

Legal efforts

We work within the legal system to end breed discriminatory laws and policies and challenge racism, classim, and ableism.

Research Contributions

We bring people together to challenge laws and policies using peer-reviewed scientific studies.

Your Role

Speak with facts before emotion and treat people as individuals. To contribute to our efforts, you can donate here.

Current court case

Sioux City, Iowa

In July 2008, Sioux City, Iowa enacted a “pit bull” dog ban. In 2016, three women filed suit in federal district court against the City, the city manager, and the Sioux City Animal Adoption & Rescue Center operator. Much of the testimony for the defense, especially the testimony by Cindy Rarrat, reveals the racism and classism behind this legislation.

The case was dismissed on a technicality, but is currently pending appeal, as Sioux City claims the plaintiffs no longer have standing as they have all either moved their pets out of city limits or have moved away so they can live with their pets. The court no longer considered them subject to the ordinance and the case was dismissed on a technicality. The court is not arguing the facts of the case and has no bearing on the merit of the lawsuit and hundreds of other families are impacted by the ban. We are not going away.

Interestingly, in 2015, the city reported that dog bites had risen from 110 in 2007 to 137 in 2015. We’re working to make sure the people of Sioux City get justice and have a safe community with science-based, rational animal ordinances.

Listen to us discuss our history fighting discrimination.

Our first case

Dias v Denver in 2007/8

The first BSL case we co-funded was Dias v Denver in 2007/8.  The case ended when the dog owners accepted a settlement but not before the federal district court hinted in its opinion that BSL violates the 5th and 14th amendments. 

Let’s be honest about canine discrimination

Canine discrimination is not about dogs at all. Dogs don’t care about discrimination and they certainly do not understand what it is. But their human companions do.

All breed-specific policies and laws can be traced to racism, classism, and ableism. Sometimes this discrimination is against the houseless, sometimes people of lesser means, sometimes it’s about ableism, denying people with disabilities access, and other times it’s about racial profiling and stereotypes.

When it comes to the rights of dog owners to protect their pet from illegal seizure or to find housing, or the rights of those who rely on a dog for equal access, we take action. We provide experts to consult on policy changes or provide legal assistance when appropriate. We do all of this at no cost to help individual dog owners fight for their rights and the lives of their family pets.

a snapshot of our legal efforts

Criscuolo v. City of Moses Lake
Result: Repeal and payment of $14k in fees/costs

Newman v. City of Payette and Fruitland
Result: repeal and some financial payment

Douglas v. County of Payette
Result: repeal and payment

Denton v. City of Yakima
Result: repeal and financial payment

“BSL suffers from the fundamental, flawed presumption that breed reliably predicts vicious propensity. It draws from retrospective review of anecdotal evidence based on questionable phenotypic and genotypic identifications (not double-blind, randomized trials that follow breed confirmed dogs till the triggering event, while controlling for confounding variables).”

– Adam Karp, Down to a Science:  Combating Breed Discriminatory Litigation with Frye, Daubert, and Rule 702

Download and read Karp’s paper

Regardless of whether someone inaccurately believes that a specific breed has certain behavior or dangerousness,a dog with moderate or minor/trace amounts of that breed has the majority of its genome derived from breeds other than the breed in question. It is not rational or scientifically valid to assume that a dog can be defined as dangerous by virtue of having any elementof a particular breed.”

– Dr. Kristopher Irizarry in his report for Nicholas Criscuolo v. Grant County

Download and read the full report

How we win

Breed-specific legislation is not constitutional

Dogs are property under the law.  BSL violates the 5th and 14th amendments: Due process, void for vagueness and rationally related. 

Dog owners are not given due process, as their dogs are deemed dangerous based solely on looks and can be killed without any scientific evidence.

The subjective nature of visual identification makes the laws vague, as dog owners have no real way of knowing if they are in violation of the law. 

For a law to be constitutional, it has to be rationally related to a legitimate public interest.  In the case of breed-specific legislation, the implied public interest is safety but knowing what we know now about the canine genome, looking at a dog and saying it is unsafe is not a sound argument, ergo BSL is not rationally related to a legitimate public interest. 

Fighting ableism

James Sak and Peggy Leifer vs city of Aurelia, Iowa

In 2011, the city of Aurelia took away James Sak’s service dog, Snickers. Service dogs are considered medical equipment under the law. The city did removed Snickers without regard to Sak’s well-being and safety as a person with disabilities. In an emergency injunction filed by Sak, Judge Mark W. Bennett found that the city was discriminating against Sak and that Sak faced irreparable harm without his dog.


P.O. Box 624
Bangall, NY 12506