I am going to start this post off by saying that I am 100% biased when it comes to the topic of pit bulls and their capacity to be loving, safe pets.
You see, I have owned pit bulls who were loving and safe dogs and I have a very strong bond with my friends’ pit bulls.
I’m a dog lover and I own five dogs, all small breeds, ONLY because I can’t legally own a pit bull in Miami-Dade County.
But all of that could change tomorrow because for the first time since it was passed, voters will have a chance to head to the voting booths to decide whether or not they want to repeal the county’s 23-year ban on pit bulls.
Under the current law, owners of American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and bull terriers face a $500 fine and court action to force the removal of the dog from the county. In some cases, dogs are euthanized.
So how does the county enforce this law? Pretty terribly, actually.
Pit bulls are supposed to be identified based on physical descriptions from the American Kennel club, including traits like short coats, broad chests and tails that taper to a point — details that Kathy Labrada, enforcement manager for Miami-Dade Animal Services, says are “subjective.” In fact, in 2009 a court ruled that the county’s law was vague and unenforceable.
The ban against pit bulls was born in 1989 when a then 7-year-old girl, Melissa Moreira, was mauled by one.
Animal advocates say the ban was passed out of fear and emotion after she was attacked and that the law is totally biased against the specific breed.
However, Moreira, now 31, wants the ordinance to remain on the books.
Which is understandable.
Moreira has undergone eight major reconstructive plastic surgeries and still bears scars from the attack.
But before you imagine a mauled, woman who is scarred for life…please take a look at the picture of Moreira to the left. She is not disfigured. In fact, she is quite pretty.
The truth is that the ban against pit bulls is based on a few isolated attacks is not only unfair, but ludicrous. Especially when you take into the account the facts.
First of all, there isn’t data to support that the breed is dangerous. About 3,000 dog bites are reported to Miami-Dade Animal Services annually, but the agency doesn’t break the data down by breed and there’s no national agency that collects dog bite information.
Also, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals all oppose such breed-specific laws.
- A recent AVMA report says that although pit bulls’ size and strength make their attacks more dangerous, this also applies to other large dogs. The organization goes on to say that pit bulls are no more prone to biting than other breeds, including German shepherds, Rottweilers, St. Bernards, Jack Russell terriers and collies.
And according to a statement from the Human Society:
“Restrictions placed on a specific breed fail to address the larger problems of abuse, aggression training and irresponsible dog ownership. Breed alone is not an adequate indicator of a dog’s propensity to bite.”
So tomorrow I urge you to head to the polls and vote YES to repeal this antiquated ban and allow Miami-Dade pit bull owners the opportunity to raise their furry friends the same way you raise yours; with love and affection and the right training.
- See a sample ballot HERE
- Find out where your voting location is HERE
But please, don’t take my word for it. Because at the end of the day, I am just a simple, dog-loving writer. However, maybe if I was a world-renowned dog trainer and expert like, oh, I don’t know, Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, maybe it would be more credible for me to ask you to vote YES tomorrow at the polls and repeal the 23-year-old ban.
Well, wouldn’t you know that Mr. Millan has posted a letter on his blog about pit bulls and his support of the breed? Check it out HERE.
So tomorrow when you head to the polls, think about voting YES to repeal the ban against pit bulls.
Because according to studies by the CDC, a person is more likely to be killed…
- by a falling coconut
- by a family member
- in a bedroom slipper-related accident
- choking on a marble
- drowning in a 5-gallon bucket
- getting struck by lightning
And really, judging an entire breed of dog based on a few, isolated attacks is not only biased, but also unfair. If we were to judge entire ethnic groups based on just a few people’s crimes, the same way we were judging this breed of dog based on a few attacks, we would be guilty of racism and ethnic profiling on the deepest of level.
Still not convinced?
Take a moment to educate yourself on some pit bull myths and facts.
- Myth: Pit bulls have locking jaws. Once they bite, they can’t let go, even if they want to.
- FACT: No dog of any breed has ever been found to possess a mechanism in their jaw which would allow them to “lock” their top and bottom jaw together. There is no such thing as a locking jaw!
- Myth: Pit bulls have a unique bite style consisting of biting down, holding, and shaking.
- FACT: Biting, holding, and shaking are not unique behaviors for pit bulls. All dogs will perform these behaviors. A dog may “bite and hold” when it is playing or when it has been taught to do this. You have probably seen police K-9 dogs, which are commonly German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois, doing bite work. These dogs are specially trained to bite hard and to not let go even when someone is hitting them. You have also seen many kinds of dogs playing with toys. Tug toys and rope toys are popular because many dogs enjoy grabbing, pulling, and shaking them. This is a natural behavior that all dogs engage in.
- Myth: Pit bulls are genetically driven to kill people.
- FACT: Dogs are not machines; they are living organisms. Like all living organisms, a dog’s behavior is influenced by both genetics and environment. How a dog owner manages his or her dog will determine whether the dog becomes a danger to humans. No dog is driven entirely by genetics to attack people, and no dog breed has been created or bred into such a state that all dogs of that breed are compelled to attack people. Dogs that are raised as beloved family pets do not kill people. There are no bad dogs, only bad owners.
- Myth: Pit bulls are very aggressive.
- FACT: Pit bulls are no more or less aggressive than any other type of dog. Many of the behaviors we expect from and encourage in dogs, including hunting, tracking, guarding, and even playing, are actually modified forms of aggression. Aggression is an individual trait that varies from dog to dog, and has a lot to do with a dog’s environment and owners. Aggressive behaviors are common and normal in dogs of all breeds and types. Pit bulls do not exhibit any aggressive behaviors that are unique or extreme when compared to other breeds or types of dogs.
- Myth: Pit bulls can not be trained or controlled.
- FACT: Dogs are, generally speaking, trainable and controllable because they are intelligent domesticated animals. Pit bulls, likewise, are intelligent and domesticated, and like all dogs, they are obedient, friendly, and handle-able. Pit bulls have excelled in areas such as agility, tracking, Shutzhund, search-and-rescue, therapy, and many other canine activities. LawDogs USA, for example, opted to use pit bulls exclusively as drug detection dogs because the organization found pit bulls to be so trainable and eager to please.
- Myth: Pit bulls have jaw muscles that can clamp down with (insert high number here) PSI of pressure.
- FACT: Many numbers are floating around that claim to be the PSI (pounds per square inch) of pit bulls’ jaw strength. The numbers range wildly, from 800 PSI to 2000 PSI. These numbers are completely unfounded; there are no scientific studies to back any of these numbers up. In fact, bite force cannot even be accurately measured in PSI; the proper term is “pounds of force” or “Newtons” (metric system).
One study conducted by Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic showed that the average domestic canine has an average bite of 320 pounds of force. In one portion of the documented study, Dr. Barr tested three dog breeds: a German Shepherd, a Rottweiler, and an American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT). The Rottweiler bit with 328 pounds of force—the highest ever recorded from a domestic dog. The German Shepherd bit with 238 pounds of force, and the APBT bit with 235 pounds of force.
It is important to understand that bite strength differs depending on the size of the dog, the situation that led to the bite, the dog’s training, and the state of mind the dog is currently in. The damage that a dog does when it bites depends on the location of the bite, the victim’s behavior while being bitten, and the size ratio between dog and victim, among other factors. Breed has very little to do with bite strength or level of damage. You cannot guess the breed of dog that bit a person by looking at the dog bite.
- Myth: Pit bulls’ brains swell and become too large for their skull, ultimately causing the dogs to “snap” and attack people.
- FACT: This particular falsehood stems from myths surrounding the Doberman in the 1960′s. It has also been applied to German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Chows, among others. Yet there is no truth to this myth.
There is in fact a rare genetic disease in which a dog’s brain is too large for its skull: syringomyelia. It is most common in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. This disease damages neurological functions and causes severe pain, weakness, and even partial paralysis. The disease does not cause random biting, and the weakness and paralysis makes it nearly impossible for a dog to attack.