The Biscayne Times

Jun 25th
Worse Than Their Bite PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wendy Doscher-Smith - BT Contributor   
September 2012

The ban on pit bulls in Miami-Dade County makes us look like a bunch of ignorant yahoos

IPix_WendyDS_9-12’ve got two words for Miami-Dade County: Bite me.

Last month, voters chose to keep the countywide pit bull ban. These dog haters are crusaders in the name of keeping the county safe from these Vicious Baby Maulers, yet they see anything furry as an equal threat. Those who are so safety-oriented also better avoid palm trees. You are more likely to die from an errant coconut smackdown than from a pit bull encounter.

Certainly some of these pit bull haters fight to save the lives of unborn children. But unborn children are animals, too. Some of them hurt or kill people. Maybe there should be a kid ban in Miami-Dade. Especially if the kid’s parents hail from “undesirable” lineage.

The ordinance to repeal the ban was shot down 63.2 percent to 36.8 percent. The ban is a dinosaur -- old and misunderstood. It exists because of a single incident in Kendall two decades ago, but now Miami-Dade residents think pit bulls don’t deserve to live.

In neighboring Broward County, pit bulls are allowed. Miami Marlins pitcher Mark Buehrle and his family chose to live in Broward to keep their dog. The Buehrles have two kids, ages three and five, and three other dogs.

Says Buehrle’s wife, Jamie: “My pit bull is like my other three dogs -- a part of my family. I would never leave any of my children behind or any of my other dogs.” It’s a decision she has “never regretted one day of my life.”

Slater, their two-year-old rescued pit bull, has been their family member since he was six months old, and Buehrle has “never had one issue with him. He is very gentle taking treats, and loves affection.”

There are also no problems with the Buehrle’s other three dogs, all vizslas. The four dogs play and eat well together. Buehrle compares the discrimination of a dog breed to ethic profiling. “It’s the same as trying to determine what ethnicity causes the most crime in a city simply by the looks of a suspect, and then banning that entire ethnic background from living in that city,” Buehrle says.

What makes the pit-bull ban more ridiculous is that the pit bull “breed” is a mix of several breeds, has a complicated history, and a wishy-washy, current-day breed description. In Miami-Dade, the pit bull classification is applied to a dog that exhibits at least 70 percent of the features on a 15-point visual checklist for American Staffordshire terriers or Staffordshire bull terriers.

The county’s 1989 ban is on American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and mixes of the two breeds. That’s like saying, “Well, golly now, any dog with short hair and a muscular build should be banned from the county.”

The people who make the life-or-death call “are not breed professionals,” says Dahlia Canes, leader of the Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation (MCABSL). Shame on you, Miami-Dade County.

Most people in Miami-Dade don’t know the history of the original ban. It was voted in after a dog that looked like it might be a pit bull attacked a child in Kendall. (Canes’s group is investigating whether that dog was even a pit.) The incident occurred when pit bulls were out of favor; the stigmatizing of pit bulls began in the late 1970s.

Notably, the 1989 Miami-Dade breed ban created a stir, and in 1990 led to a statewide law prohibiting any other county from placing restrictions based on breed. But since Miami- Dade was grandfathered in, the law remained active here. The bottom line? “The State of Florida found that this law was so reckless and discriminatory that it wanted no other county to follow suit,” as MCABSL declares on its Facebook page.

Canes says the community has been fed “myths and legends” for 23 years. MCABSL has now retained a lawyer who has requested a “sunset review,” which affords county commissioners the opportunity to eliminate the ban without it going to the ballot. Canes has little hope the public will ever repeal the ban. “County officials have brainwashed this county against pit bulls,” she says.

In fact, the wording on last month’s ballot doomed the repeal from the start, since “pit bull” and “dangerous” were in the description. The county attorney writes the description, and MCABSL had publicly opposed the wording, to no avail. “This is a banana republic,” Canes says.

Here’s some history: During the first half of the 20th Century, this nation revered pit bulls. Helen Keller had a pit bull. The Little Rascals’ pal Petey was a pit bull. But after a series of articles ran in the New York Times, exposing how pit bills were used for dog fighting, the country began its anti-pitty (no pun intended) war. Since then, the media has bled negative pit bull ink. The result: Plenty of people feel pit bulls should be banned simply because they are “born evil.” Some insist that pit bulls are owned by unsavory characters who raise the animals to kill.

I have been active in the dog community as a groomer, rescue worker, pet photographer, and animal advocate for years now, and I can tell you that is not correct. Or at least I have never met a killer pit bull.

According to the American Kennel Club’s The Complete Dog Book, which is recognized as the worldwide authority on pure-breed physical attributes, standards, and temperaments, the pit bull is really an American Staffordshire Terrier and is described as “docile.” The AKC adds that “the good qualities of the breed are many, and it would be difficult for anyone to overstress them.”

Furthermore, in April the American Veterinary Medical Association conducted a study called “The Role of Breed in Dog Bite Risk and Prevention.” The study states that, “based on behavioral assessments and owner surveys, the breeds that were more aggressive toward people were small to medium-size dogs such as the collies, toy breeds, and spaniels.”

The same study found that “owners of pit bull-type dogs deal with a strong breed stigma; however, controlled studies have not identified this breed group as disproportionately dangerous.”

In addition, the study concluded that “the pit bull type is particularly ambiguous as a ‘breed’ encompassing a range of pedigree breeds, informal types, and appearances that cannot be reliably identified. Visual determination of dog breed is known to not always be reliable. And witnesses may be predisposed to assume that a vicious dog is of this type.”

Seems to me, given the facts, it’s high time to reconsider banning pit bulls in Miami-Dade. But then, I also believe the earth is round.

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