Friday, June 1, 2012

Pit bull politics in Maryland, or "the sky is falling!!!!!"

The Maryland Supreme Court Ruling in the Tracey v. Solesky case has pit bull advocacy in an uproar. As expected, Best Friends Animal Society has circulated a bogus analysis of the financial impact of the decision, the Economic Impact and Tax Implications of Tracey V. Solesky. This analysis has been circulated to a great many people and the same points are questioned.

The analysis, produced for Best Friends by John Dunham and Associates gives "expected" financial impacts of the decision on Maryland rental properties, and on the State of Maryland economy. Dunham and Associates must realize that the Supreme Court decision only impacts pit bulls and pit mixes but the "analysis" pulls numbers out of the air that include not only ALL dogs, but all pets. Yes, the Dunham analysis includes every Golden Retriever, Collie AND cat in the State of Maryland. This is a direct quote from the analysis "By placing restrictions on PETS, landlords will lose their competitive advantage in the marketplace, forcing them to lower rental rates. This will, in turn, negatively affect state and local business tax revenues, income tax revenues, and property tax revenues, by as much as $30,190,946. In addition, as many as 1,108 jobs could be lost in the real estate industry and other supporting industries if landlords are unable to rent to PET OWNERS." Emphasis is mine, the numbers are pure fantasy.

Dunham goes on to an odd list of different scenarios. The first scenario shows landlords evicting owners of all large dogs, regardless of breed. Why? Good question, the decision only impacts pit bulls but apparently Dunham does not think landlords can tell the difference between a pit bull and a Standard Poodle. A second scenario has only owners of pit bulls and pit mixes evicted. Scenario #2 impacts a total of 4,538 units statewide, per Dunham and Associates. This is hardly an Armageddon in the making. Having said this, the analysis moves on to turnover costs a bit later and gives a figure of 3,631 pit bull owners evicted... from 4,538 units?? Don't give up yet, Dunham also throws out 31,408 OTHER DOG OWNERS in scenario #1. The Supreme Court decision only impacts pit bulls.

The Best Friends report makes a great deal of the rental price premium paid for pet friendly units. This quote from the report "Landlords with no pet restrictions enjoy a significant price premium in the marketplace." This is true, many people will pay more in rent to keep their pets, but it is not a universal business truth. If this concept was universally accepted all landlords would allow pets. In practice, renting to pet owners has built in headaches and costs. Damage to the unit, noise complaints, odors, tenant conflicts, refusal of tenants to pick up animal waste, insect infestations due to spilled pet food, there are so many reasons that landlords may refuse to deal with pet owners.

The analysis gives no allowance for the negative economic impact of pit bulls and pit bull breeding operations. In the Solesky case, the Tracey property was rented to a pit bull breeder. (The discussion of this was one of my favorite parts of the trial. One of the Justices asked about this breeding operation. I don't remember the exact words, something about "this was a pit bull breeding set up?" The attorney for the Traceys answered "I wouldn't call it exactly that." Justice says with an eye roll... "what would you call it? A male dog, a female dog, and puppies.") The dog from the Tracey property got loose twice in a very short period of time and attacked two children, almost killing one of them. It would be fair to suspect that this was not the first time this dog was at large and menacing neighborhood residents. What impact would this have on adjacent units? Most people do not want to live next to this. The rentals adjacent, and even on the same street would be expected to have lower rents and be harder to fill because they are just not desirable. There is no "Price premium" here.

We move on to a discussion of high rental unit turnover costs. It is very possible that both rental unit and neighborhood turnover will actually drop as neighborhoods become more livable. People with Goldens and Beagles will continue to rent and will feel safer walking their dogs and enjoying their community. Stable communities have low turnover, landlords will save money.
Dunham and Assoc. use a tool they call IMPLAN, which is supposed to demonstrate how trade flows affect the economy but as one reads the report one finds a great many pivotal parts of the report are based on estimations or assumptions. A casual reading of the six page report finds the words "we estimate" or "we assume" used seventeen times. This is a whole lot of estimates and assumptions.

Dunham rolls to a stop with this report discussing tenants who may decide to fight eviction "inflicting significant costs in litigation and breed testing to determine whether a dog is actually a pit bull or a pit bull mix." By breed testing Dunham may mean DNA testing. Commercially available dog DNA tests are suspect accuracy wise, and they don't test for pit bulls. The Mars Wisdom Panel website clearly states that pit bull DNA is NOT in the data base. Pit bull advocacy loves DNA tests because no dog will test positive as a pit bull.

It would be interesting to know just how much Best Friends paid John Dunham and Associates for this report. The report is full of estimates, assumptions, and over inclusive categories. It is deliberately deceptive and absurd.

For more on John Dunham and Associates work for Best Friends Animal Society, click here
For more on Best Friends financial terror tactics, click here,