In 1996, Prince George’s County, Maryland enacted a ban on American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. This ban currently costs the county approximately $1.2 million each year. In addition to that, there has been no decrease in the amount of reported dog bites each year. In 2003, Prince George’s County authorized a task force to evaluate the “pit bull” ban. The task force found that the ban actually had a negative effect on public safety, as animal control officers were stretched thin and attending to “pit bull” calls and did not have time to deal with other violations.
As we have seen lately, “pit bull” bans are being repealed across the country. There are many reasons for this. Breed bans are ineffective and costly, as we have seen in Prince George’s County.
There is no actual breed called a “pit bull”. Pit bull is a generic term used to describe a short haired, muscular, mixed breed dog. Therefore, “pit bull” refers to Beagle mixes, Golden Retriever mixes, any mixed breed, really. There is an American Pit Bull Terrier, but they are rare. In fact, some of the dogs that Michael Vick used in his dogfighting operation were mixed with whippet. With DNA testing becoming more common, we are learning just how difficult it is to identify a dog based on appearance. It’s also important to recognize that any dog can bite, from a pit bull terrier type dog to a Labrador Retriever to a Cocker Spaniel to a Chihuahua. Breed or appearance do not predispose a dog to biting, treatment of a dog is much more important in what makes a dog bite than breed or appearance. Because of this, dangerous dog laws are much more effective than breed bans. Dangerous dog laws target individual dogs, and more importantly, hold owners responsible. You cannot punish a dog because of the way it looks, the dog has no say in that, but you can punish an owner for mistreating a dog.
On to how dangerous dog laws as opposed to a pit bull ban would benefit PG County. Pit bull bans are getting much more difficult and much more expensive to enforce. This is why so many areas are overturning them in favor of dangerous dog laws. Again, it is impossible to identify a dogs breed by its appearance. In addition to that, there are so many dogs that look like American Pit Bull Terriers, such as the American Bulldog, the Olde English Bulldog, the Dogo Argentinio, that it just gets more and more difficult. Because of this, DNA testing is often brought into play in lawsuits where a dog has been removed from its home due to a ban. DNA testing is not inexpensive at all and these lawsuits are also getting more and more expensive. In addition to that, we should look into what has been going on in Colorado and Iowa. There are towns in Colorado and Iowa that had pit bull bans. In both towns, disabled veterans were residing with their service dogs. The service dogs were pit bull terrier type dogs. In both towns, animal control removed the dogs from the town. In both towns, the federal government got involved because removing a service dog is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The publicity was, well, ugly, and the cost was very high. And if you think that pit bull service dogs are rare, well, that’s just not true. In fact, a group in upstate NY, Animal Farm Foundation, is currently getting pit bull type dogs from animal shelters and training them to be service dogs. Another thing to consider is that if the people that you don’t want to have pit bulls aren’t allowed to have them, the people who will mistreat them or raise them for the wrong reasons, those people will just go bigger. As it is, the PG Shelter is seeing a jump in mastiff dogs, such as Cane Corsos and Presa Canarios. This is not a coincidence. So, instead of banning every type of dog that someone could get for the wrong reason, adopt dangerous dog laws. Punish the act, not the breed. I urge you to look into the Calgary Model. I can assure you that your chief of animal control, Rodney Taylor, is familiar with it. Calgary, BC, has very strict dangerous dog laws and licensing laws. Currently, the city of Calgary’s animal control brings in a SURPLUS each year, not drains $1.2 million that could be going to improving schools or roads. Dangerous dog laws also have a much greater impact on public safety than dangerous dog laws. So, to enact a dangerous dog law and repeal a breed ban, you could have a more positive impact on public safety and save the county money. That just makes sense.
So, I urge you to please repeal the “pit bull” ban in Prince George’s County, Maryland.