Let’s Talk About Pit Bulls and Breed-Specific Legislation

“We can only put it out there so much, but without the public support, the dogs are done with,” says Dahlia Canes.


This story originally ran on A Girl’s Kitchen, but we’re running it here with permission so Dogster readers can comment on it.

“If current news reports are to be believed, Pit Bulls have been attacking and biting humans left and right — to the point that many communities are considering breed-specific bans on Pit Bulls,” Jon Bastian wrote in “How Did Pit Bulls Get a Bad Rap?”

Three Pit Bulls attacked a woman in Orlando in July 2013. Articles like this are what Pit Bull lovers question about the media. Susan Troiano wrote an article in 2011 explaining how important it is to educate the public. “How the story is told will affect how the audience will perceive information. By telling a story, the media is persuading its readers or listeners that will cause a reaction to the news. This reaction is either positive or negative, and this is how the ratings go up.”

Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) bans, restricts, or imposes conditions on owning certain breeds. It is a common method some cities use in order to reduce dog bite-related injuries. Hundreds of municipalities of all sizes and geographic locations throughout the country have adopted BSL, and an estimated 12 states have passed laws prohibiting BSL by local governments.

In Miami-Dade County, BSL and the ban against the Pit Bull breed began in 1989. In July 2012, the Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation (MCABSL) and the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association (SFVMA) tried to repeal the pit bull ban and apply a “no kill” act in the South Florida animal shelters. Votes were 63 percent to 37 percent to uphold the county’s ban on Pit Bull and Pit Bull-related breeds.

Founder Dahlia Canes was not surprised by the results. The ballot read, “Shall the ordinance repealing the county’s 23-year-old law prohibiting the ownership of Pit Bulls as a dangerous breed of dogs become effective?”

Miami-Dade is the only county in Florida that holds the BSL ban. “These dogs are family members like any other dogs; actually in the 1940s they were bred to be nanny dogs for your kids,” Dahlia says. “If you do your research you will find that there is no reputable animal organization that endorses or supports breed specific legislation. On the contrary, they oppose it, and the only one who supports it is PETA.” Studies have proven that BSL has been ineffective in reducing the number of dog bites in areas where BSL is enacted.

Pit Bulls are not the only dog to be considered a menace to society. In the late 19th century, the Bloodhound was often used to capture escaped slaves. After World War II, there was a spike in reports of attacks by German Shepherds. Dog attacks have been going on for centuries, and as the years have passed, governments began to get involved. Meanwhile, Pit Bull organizations argue that banning certain breeds will not solve the problem of mean dogs, but going after their owners might.

An estimated 33 percent of shelter intakes are Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes; in large cities the numbers can reach 65 percent. About 75 percent of municipal shelters euthanize Pit Bulls immediately upon intake. The Miami-Dade shelter contains about 50 percent of Pit Bull mixes or breed related, but residents cannot adopt Pit Bulls, leaving little opportunity for these animals to be adopted or fostered.

Pilar Borras is an animal activist and board member of the MCABSL in Miami. She points out that the animal shelter there has a receiving area where people can drop off their dogs, no questions asked. “People just bring their dogs because they don’t want them or they can’t have them, and unfortunately most of them don’t make it out,” Pilar says. “There are no people outside educating the people and telling them there are other options.”

Dahlia Canes believes that educating the public is important. “Unfortunately, the reason why the ban is here is because people are uninformed, they are uneducated,” she says. “The media puts out tremendous myths on these dogs being aggressive and they are not. Look at the other end of the leash: These dogs were not breed to be aggressive, these dogs are family members just like any other dog.”

Jodi Preis of Bless the Bullys, a Pit Bull rescue and education group in Tennessee, started National Pit Bull Awareness Day (NPBAD) in 2007. NPBAD is a day of appreciation and education, which is designed to change the perception and stereotypes about Pit Bulls and their responsible owners.

MCABSL will be hosting its fifth annual barbecue event in Pembroke Pines, Florida, on October 20. Pit Bulls are not banned in Broward County, allowing MCABSL and the owners of Pit Bulls to attend. “It’s a fantastic event that exposes people, otherwise unaware of the friendly and loving characteristics of Pit Bulls and Pit Bull-type dogs,” Dahlia says. Tony Carrera, founder of Where’s My Pet, adds, “It’s a proactive method of combating the image that the media outlets portray this breed as, which is usually violent and vicious, when in fact they are some of the most affectionate companions of all dog types.”

BSL laws are being enforced around the world. Petitions from bulladelphia.org and change.org are trying to remove BSL. Sign up for emails on the MCBASL website to receive notices on events and public hearings for the Pit Bull ban in Miami. MCABSL cannot reveal their plans; however, Canes says they are close to removing the ban in Miami-Dade County.

“We can use all the support we can,” she says. “You are your dog’s voice. The dogs can’t be out there jumping up and down saying, ‘hey, release me, free me’ so it’s up to the responsible owners to do it for them. We can only put it out there so much, but without the public support, the dogs are done with.”

About the author: Kristin Nicole lives in Miami, Florida, with her fiancé, Tony, and her dog, Handsome. She’s a New Media Journalist who writes about things she is passionate about, including BSL and the pit bull ban in Miami. Her love for animals has made her work that much easier. You can find Kristin Nicole on Facebook, Twitter, and Vimeo.

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