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Prince George County's Ban on Pit Bulls Resists Tenacious Opposition
Pr. George's Ban on Pit Bulls Resists Tenacious Opposition
By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 17, 2009
Opponents of a long-standing pit bull ban in Prince George's County might have an easier time breaking the notorious grip of the dogs themselves than getting the prohibition repealed.
Time and again -- despite the recommendations of experts and the outcry of animal rights advocates -- efforts to lift the ban have failed.
But none of that stopped Laurel Mayor Craig A. Moe from giving it a go.
Last month, Moe wrote to County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) asking that a task force be formed to take another look at the law. In his letter, Moe said that Laurel has seen an increase in pit bulls and that "all such dogs observed have been calm in demeanor and completely under their owners' control."
Then came a jarring reminder of why many officials view revisiting the ban as a non-starter.
Last Monday, a 20-year-old man was found dead in a Leesburg house from a headline-grabbing attack by two pit bulls. On Thursday, John Erzen, a spokesman for Johnson, said the executive is "not interested in repealing the ban, nor is he interested in establishing a task force" to review it.
Members of the County Council said they did not think Moe's proposal would gain traction, and the county's chief of animal control declined to weigh in on the policy.
Even without the Leesburg attack, Moe's request was likely doomed because of the way pit bull politics work in Prince George's: Oppose the ban, and risk appearing soft on public safety and the dogfighting rings and drug dealers often $#@!ociated with the dogs; support it, and incur the wrath of vocal animal rights groups and dog owners who view the policy as cruel.
"No one wants to spend time or political capital dealing with" the pit bull issue, said Del. Justin D. Ross (D-Prince George's). "In light of dealing with poverty and budget issues and drug addiction and youth crime, the fact that we would spend even one moment talking about this issue is insane."
The county law, passed by the council in 1996, outlawed pit bulls but included a clause allowing owners to register those acquired before February 1997. Owners caught with unregistered pit bulls face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Pit bulls seized by the county are euthanized or transferred to an out-of-county government shelter, although there is an appeals process for owners to try to get their dogs back, said Rodney C. Taylor, $#@!ociate director of the county's Animal Management Group.
Prince George's ban is among the strictest pit bull policies in the nation. The District has no ban and allows shelters to offer pit bulls for adoption after being evaluated for temperament. Fairfax, Arlington, Montgomery and Prince William counties have policies similar to the District's. Loudoun County does not offer the animals for adoption but allows them to be transferred to other shelters or rescue groups if they p$#@! an evaluation.
In Prince George's, the pit bull ban was examined early in the decade by a task force that in 2003 recommended lifting the breed-specific language and replacing it with "equal requirements, restrictions and sanctions on all dogs that exhibit dangerous behavior." Proposals in 2004 and 2005 to lift the ban were unsuccessful, and some observers said the political climate has not changed since then.
"We already had a task force, and the task force recommended revisions . . . and the majority of the council didn't want to make any changes at that time," said council member Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel). "I don't know that a new task force is going to bring us anything."
Moe said that the idea that the pit bull population has grown in Laurel is purely anecdotal and that any influx probably stems from dog owners moving there over the years without checking local laws beforehand. He said that there are strong feelings on both sides but that he doesn't think it is necessary to shy away from the issue because it's controversial.
"I guess some are concerned about bringing it up," Moe said. "I think that's our job."
In another sign of the issue's politically sensitive nature, Taylor, who sat on the task force and has opposed the ban in the past, declined to give an opinion on it this time around. He deferred to the county executive instead.
"I can't comment on that," Taylor said when asked whether he still supports the changes to the law proposed in the task force report. "I've got to leave that one alone."
Taylor said pit bulls are not the only type of dog that can be dangerous, although they can do more damage than other breeds.
"Any breed of dog can be dangerous if it's either mistreated, trained to be dangerous or just totally unsocialized," Taylor said. But if a pit bull decides to turn on a human, "the damage they can do is unbelievable."
Taylor said that during the first five to seven years of the ban, animal control officials would encounter an average of 1,200 pit bulls a year but that in recent years that figure has dropped by about half. According to county statistics, 36 pit bull bites, out of 619 total dog bites, were recorded in 2008, down from 95 pit bull bites, out of a total of 853, in 1996.
To animal rights advocates, the ban is ill-conceived, if not outright cruel.
"Breed bans are ineffective and expensive," said Adam Goldfarb, director of the Humane Society of the United States' Pets At Risk program. "They target the wrong end of the leash."
As evidence, Goldfarb cited the Prince George's task force report, which stated that although the ban "may arguably be deemed 'effective' in that the number of pit bulls in the county has been reduced," the policy is "inefficient, costly, difficult to enforce, subjective and questionable in its results."
The report also alluded to interest groups that helped shape the ban, noting that the proposal originally outlawed Rottweilers, too -- language that was deleted because of "a successful lobbying campaign."
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.
Pr. George's Ban on Pit Bulls Resists Tenacious Opposition - washingtonpost.com
08-18-2009, 08:52 AM #2
- Join Date
- May 2009
- Westminster, Md
i live in the area although i dont agree with bsl i dont agree with all the people who would be owning them in pg county. until a soulution is found on how to control who can obtain these dogs i think the ban should stay in place sue me if you dont agree
Prince George County (ban/BSL) supporters can go banned themselves :mad:
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