Posted Sept. 17, 2007 – With the steady rise in pit bull attacks nationwide, states and localities from California to Florida are passing laws to reduce the number of meat-seeking missiles critics say are just waiting to go off.
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The current Michael Vick case might have shined a national spotlight on the dangerous nature of pit bulls – and a reminder that it’s more the fault of irresponsible owners/breeders than the animal itself – but the powerful, muscular canine with a predisposition for aggressive behavior has been doing a good job of grabbing local headlines before the indicted Atlanta Falcons quarterback got busted with his Bad Newz Kennel.
Here’s some of what’s been happening over the past few weeks alone: In Livingston County, Mich., on Thursday, a 91-year-old woman and 56-year-old man were attacked and killed by pit bulls; also on Thursday, police in Columbus, Ind., chased down two pit bulls with guns drawn after the animals injured two people; in Seattle, a man screamed in pain as pit bulls ripped up his arms as he attempted to shield his dog; last week, a mother holding a 4-month-old baby in San Jose, Calif., had the flesh torn from her arms as she fought off pits – she spared the infant’s life by tossing him into a plastic trash can; on Aug. 31, a 6-year-old San Antonio boy was mauled to death by his family's pit bull; two pit bulls mauled a woman in Baltimore last month as she walked home from work; and recently, in New York, Dallas and Houston, pit bulls attacked children, chewed up pets and even destroyed a farmer’s prized pigs.
These are but a few of the tragedies caused by a breed of dogs constructed for destruction. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that between 1979 and 2000 – even before the really recent wave of attacks – pits were involved in about a third of the dog-attack deaths nationwide. It was also before pit bulls and pit-bull mixes officially became fully entrenched as the essential hip-hop accessory. Now, more than ever, they are the dogs of choice for a growing number of Black and White urban youths, who live where there are plenty people, pets and other triggers for the dogs’ unpredictable natures.
This has prompted more and more jurisdictions to pass pit bull laws. As of last week, for example, the city of Youngstown, Ohio, banned residents from buying or obtaining pits and other “dangerous” breed dogs. If you already own them, they must be muzzled and on a leash no longer than 4 feet long or in a latched fence with "Beware of Dog" signs posted. In addition, the dogs must also be registered with the county and owners must carry $100,000 liability dangerous dog insurance policy on each pit bull. Finally, puppies born to any pit bulls must immediately be removed from the city. Also in Ohio, a court recently upheld a similar law for the city of Toledo. In San Francisco, according to The S.F. Chronicle, the numbers of pit bull terriers and pit bull mixes abandoned and euthanized in the city have plummeted 21 percent since the Council enacted a law 18 months ago mandating that pit bulls be sterilized. Numerous municipalities in Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois, to name a few, have passed laws prohibiting or restricting ownership of pit bulls.
Bad Rap for a Good Dog?
But for many pit bull owners and lovers, any laws aimed at this specific breed is foolish. They point out that no other dog gets the unfair rap of pit bulls. When other dogs – golden retrievers, French poodles and chows, for example – bite people, they rarely make the headlines. They also question why laws should be passed to sterilize, euthanize and just plain demonize pit bulls when in fact it is careless breeders and dog-fighters – who already can be prosecuted under existing laws prohibiting cruelty to animals – who deserve to be punished.
They also note that the CDC study, showing that pit bulls are disproportionately responsible for killing people, is almost eight years old. A more recent, less biased study, they say, would show that pit bulls are actually getting a bad rap for dog crimes caused by dogs misidentified as pit bulls and pit-bull mixes, which are affable, passionate pets and not predisposed to violence.
And, Michael Vick didn’t help, they say. All he did was emphasize that pit bulls are bad-tempered mutts that know how to kill -- and that in the wrong hands, they are indeed weapons of mass destruction.
What do you think? Should there be laws to control pit bulls, or do they deserve the same treatment by public authorities as any other dog? Click 'Discuss Now' to post your comment.