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Posted at 9:49 AM ET, 08/28/2009

Slaughter of the Pit Bulls

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Tonya Miller
Temple Hills

Regarding the Aug. 17 Metro article, “Pr. George’s Ban on Pit Bulls Resists Tenacious Opposition”:

I read the article with sadness, because I well know the indifference of the Prince George’s County Council regarding this issue. I have worked with countless veterinarians and animal rights groups to get this law overturned.

The law was enacted after a series of attacks by pit bulls owned by people who did not properly care for or manage these animals. Nothing much happened to the owners, the dogs were euthanized and the law was passed.

What the council sanctioned then, and continues to support now, is the killing of a dog simply because it exists. There is no way for an owner to appeal a decision, because the dogs are typically euthanized immediately. They even euthanize three-week-old puppies. That is sickening.

While this law is said to have been enacted to protect public safety, the laws against staging dogfights in the county go unenforced. When I called to report such a dogfight in my neighborhood, the police told me it wasn’t their concern and did not respond.

What’s the difference between this senseless law and a dogfighting ring? In a dogfight, at least the dog has a chance at survival.

Do I think the law will be changed? No. Are there more pressing issues to be addressed? Of course. But does that mean the right thing shouldn’t be done?

By washingtonpost.com editors  | August 28, 2009; 9:49 AM ET
 
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Comments

I have been opposed to breed specific legislation, but I am coming around to the idea that it is a suitable approach in jurisdictions where dog fighting and dog attack incidents are endemic. Seeing the dog-fighting documentary "Off the Chain" and reading the details of Mr. Vick's dog-fighting operation were the final straws. Since there is apparently no good way to end the dog-fighting and the epidemic of owner neglect, perhaps it is better to simply make the animals themselves illegal.

If the puppies you mention were destined for the dog fight circuit, it's at least a little progress that they were killed instead.

As the frequent caretaker of a wonderful Staffordshire terrier female, my heart goes out to the responsible owners needlessly disrupted and deprived by this law. It also seems to me that the County could benefit itself by providing shelter for these animals at least long enough for volunteers to find more suitable placements for them, outside the county.

Posted by: fzdybel | August 28, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

"The law was enacted after a series of attacks by pit bulls owned by people who did not properly care for or manage these animals."

What Ms. Miller decries here sounds a lot like the 2nd Amendment whack-jobs constantly screaming about their rights to have unregulated firearms. In both cases, when the owner doesn't handle the weapon knowledgeably, tragedy ensues.

And, after all, any idiot can buy a gun or a pit bull.

So what we have here is more insistence on everyone's "right" to own and flaunt deadly weapons without any of the safeguards that could help avert the tragedies.

Ms. Miller accuses PG County of "killing dogs simply because they exist," but that's ludicrous. The dogs are euthanized because they've attacked and harmed someone. And, while I am completely opposed to euthanizing animals just because they're taking up space in shelters, I can't condone releasing vicious animals back into the population where they can attack again.

If Ms. Miller is compelled to blame someone for the deaths of seized pit bulls, she should point a finger not at the county but at the nitwits who had a four-legged lethal weapon they were too lazy to learn to manage.

Posted by: kjohnson3 | August 28, 2009 11:51 PM | Report abuse

I think the legislation is retarded and the council is just as retarded. This is why I will never, ever live in PG County. They took the easy way out. With a Drug addict or a Prisoner, dont we always talk about rehabilitating them... well how bout we just donk them off if they can't go straight ??? I know it is hard to compare this to animals but in essence... we are a form of an animal. You start eliminating a breed, guess what, the thugs will use another breed... what then?? Start eliminating that breed? How bout going after the trainer or say owner of the dog. Maybe have legislation that requires the owner of a pitbull to register and certify training classes with the dog. The reason... if the dog is properly trained, along with the owner... these attacks would be reduced(minus the occassional instance that could happen with any breed).... how do I know. I have a 9 yr old pitbull that I properly trained and trained myself on so I know how to handle them.... not one bite, attack and I have a 4yr old son that "man handles" the dog... not a nip just a bunch of kisses and affection. Pitbulls are protectors because of loyalty. They are pleasers in the dog world and actually are recommended as a family dog because of constant attention that they need and require (as well as their protective instincts). GO AFTER THE OWNER and NOT THE DOG!

Posted by: rvanags | August 29, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Pit bull bans are like door latches: they make things hard only for decent. I (a good citizen) moved out of the county with my dogs. But the people who depress the county's reputation and community life stay - and stay engaged in illicit and immoral activities.

Posted by: rtierney1 | August 29, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

"GO AFTER THE OWNER and NOT THE DOG!"

If there is any problem, that is exactly what happens: the owner is legally liable for any damage the animal does. Unfortunately, this has never been enough to prevent problems. When there is a problem, the dog often has to die because there simply aren't enough foster placements to deal with all the problem animals.

Bull terriers are wonderful. They were America's favorite family dog for decades. They are very special animals, far and away my favorite breed of dog. However, they have strong prey drive and need to be socialized with other animals from an early age; they are very athletic and need a lot of exercise every day; and they have a strong need for human love and attention, and need a lot of face time (sharing your bed with them is also highly recommended).

Take care of these needs, and you don't need any special training, just be consistent about what you want. The dog will figure out what you're after and will try its best to please you at all times. Others will marvel at the dog's affection, devotion and obedience and ask how you got it to be that way. In fact, these things are all out-of-the-box standard equipment for Bull terriers.

Ignore the animal, deny it quality time with you, raise it in isolation from other animals, keep it penned in or chained up all day long, and you rapidly have a problem on your hands. Here again, no special training is really needed to get this result.

When you give a Cocker Spaniel this kind of maltreatment, you also wind up with a problem dog, but at least you don't wind up with something that could kill somebody.

Most urban dogs never really get all the socialization, exercise and companionship they need to be healthy and happy, and Bull terriers have even greater needs in these areas. It's a tragedy, but this being the case, it can make sense to restrict ownership of certain breeds. We could make laws against neglectful ownership, but could we really deal with the problem that way?

Posted by: fzdybel | August 29, 2009 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Why is it that every article about a dog killing a person involves a pit bull? Get Real. Pits kill - even the nice ones.

Posted by: dezlboy1 | August 29, 2009 11:30 PM | Report abuse

"Why is it that every article about a dog killing a person involves a pit bull?"

The average witness or policeman can't reliably tell a pit bull from a chocolate lab. If it has four legs, it's a "pit bull." No kidding. Here, you try it: http://www.understand-a-bull.com/Findthebull/findpitbull_v3.html

For fatal dog bite incidents, when the breed of the dog is positively identified, Rottweilers are in first place. The larger and stronger the breed, the more likely it is to be involved in a fatal incident.

In terms of reported (non-fatal) incidents, in the few studies where the breed of the dog is positively identified, the dreaded Pit Bull Terrier comes in at sixth place, behind Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Akitas, and Chows.

If all the Pit Bull Terriers in the US were killers "even the sweet ones" we'd all be dead by now.

Posted by: fzdybel | August 30, 2009 1:35 AM | Report abuse

Breed specific legislation does not work. What does work is passing stronger legislation and ENFORCING that legislation. If PG County police and the attorney general refuse to enforce the laws what is the purpose of having them?

I find it appalling that anyone believes it is okay to slaughter two-week old puppies. The puppies were pets of a woman. PG County police went to her home and Jack Johnson proudly announced that all the dogs that were rounded up that day were to be euthanized that day. That was on WUSA about six years ago.

Most of the dogs from Michael Vick's kennel were rehabillitated. The show on Animal Planet about Dogtown had a two-hour special about their rehabilitation. One is even a certified therapy dog. If you watched the documentary about dog fighting you should seriously think about watching that episode of Dogtown.

The fact is that any dog is capable of killing. Remember the fear of Dobermans? Everyone believed they would turn on their owners. Rottweillers killed a woman and her small dog recently. Shall we ban Rottweillers and destroy them as well?

I guess it's easier to kill the dogs than hold their humans responsible.

Posted by: nailahjordan | August 30, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

You can't keep wolves, bears, tigers, lions, or any other dangerous animal as a pet unless you have a special permit and meet specific requirmetns to keepo that animal from harming others. Pit bulls are no different. there are plenty of nice dogs out there. People want these animals for a variety of reasons but all of them go back to the viciousness of the breed. It is not conscionable to keep these animals in areas where there are other dogs, children, or others who can be harmed by the animal. If you want a dog for a pet go get a lab or a setter. It would be fabulous to have a nation wide ban on these foul beasts and simply make the breed dissappear. We live in a crowded world, there is no need for introducing danger into our neighborhoods because you feel inadequate or have some mental probelm that makes you think a killing mnachine is a good idea for a pet.

Posted by: John1263 | August 31, 2009 12:44 AM | Report abuse

That breed is about as safe and effective as a drive by shooting. Even a highly trained handler will tell you their nature is to kill and they are unpredictable. Owners of such animals are driven by their own insecurities, misguided need for protection.

Posted by: cvroach | August 31, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

CWRoad---> What trainers say that? John Landry and Craig Jolly are both reputable trainers who work with difficult dog. Mr. Landry specifically prefers "bully" dogs, mastifs, and other large breeds. Most people don't know how to handle dogs that have top weights that exceed 70 pounds.

It seems that the lazy, easy way is more acceptable than forcing dog owners to be responsible for their dogs.

If a dog is vicious it should be destroyed. Two-week old puppies don't kill. I haven't seen a two-month old puppy maul and kill, have you? Should we destroy those dogs because they have the potential to kill?

If we are going to start destroying dogs because of their potential to kill we should destroy all Rottweilers, Akitas, Cane Corsos, Italian Mastifs, etc. All of these dogs have the potential to kill, and do so with greater frequency than Pit Bulls.

Most people who own Pit Bulls do not want them because they are vicious. They want them because they are highly intelligent animals that are affectionate and loyal. If you want an equivalent in a smaller breed try Scottish Terriers. They are quite similar in nature. Ask anyone who has ever owned one.

Strengthening and enforcing existing laws is what should be done. I noticed no one has mentioned that PG County won't enforce existing laws and that the police won't respond when called out. It's just the dogs fault so let’s kill all of them. Very reasonable.

John1263--- > Perhaps having people who wish to own the breed have a special license and registration for the dog would be an option. This would enable the county to keep track of the dogs and hold the appropriate person responsible if the dog mauls another dog or a person.

Keep in mind, there are circumstances when a dog biting an individual will not result in the euthanizing of the dog. If someone enters the dogs property and the dog defends by attacking the person the dog will not be destroyed. If the dog is properly restrained and is attacked by another dog that is not on a leas the defending dog will not be destroyed.

Holding owners accountable is the way the law should work.

Posted by: nailahjordan | August 31, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

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