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Massachusetts considers state wide pit bull ban (article)

May 3rd, 2007, 01:34 PM
The Boston Globe

Do pit bulls need a law of their own?
Idea of breed-specific measure stirs fierce debate

By Raja Mishra, Globe Staff | May 3, 2007

Lawmakers are exploring whether to push for a statewide ban on pit bulls, with some urban legislators saying Massachusetts needs to overhaul dog-control laws to reduce attacks by combative canines.

The effort is the latest attempt to rein in perhaps the most controversial breed of dog, one that has become synonymous with urban dysfunction but is beloved by thousands of pet owners.

In the past two months, pit bulls attacked Lynn police officers and mauled a 10-year-old boy in Taunton. Numerous Massachusetts towns have passed an array of local measures, with Canton legislators passing tough regulations this week limiting pit bull ownership.

Animal rights advocates and some lawmakers said they oppose banning pit bulls or any other breed, arguing that regulations should target careless and malicious dog owners, rather than their pets.

"It so happens that pit bulls are the breed favored by those who like to raise dangerous dogs, but they're also great family pets," said Scott Giacoppo, deputy director of advocacy for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government, which will hold a hearing May 14 on potential new dog-control laws, were divided yesterday on banning pit bulls statewide. But several other proposals under consideration appear to have more support: providing guidelines for cities and towns to banish troublesome dogs; mandating license requirements for certain breeds; requiring training for owners of certain breeds; fining owners of noisy dogs; and seeking stricter leash laws.

Word of a possible pit bull ban, which leaked earlier this week, has drawn considerable backlash from dog owners, veterinarians, and animal rights activists, who have flooded lawmakers with protests. At the heart of the issue is whether pit bulls -- several breeds of dog that include American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, or Staffordshire bull terriers -- are inherently dangerous.

The dogs were first bred in 17th-century England by crossing terriers and bulldogs and were often used in dog fights because of their strength. They were brought to the United States in the 1800s by Irish immigrants coming to Boston, then subjected to further breeding that gave rise to the American versions.

Pit bull incidents became so frequent in Boston that in 2004 city officials passed expansive regulations requiring all pit bulls to be spayed or neutered and to be muzzled in public. Owners in the city are required to display warning signs outside their homes.

"The number of pit bull attacks raises concerns," said Representative Vincent A. Pedone, Democrat of Worcester, who has informally discussed a ban with committee members. "These dogs are kept specifically for fighting or as weapons, and I don't think they have any place in civilized society."

He rejected arguments that dog owners are more to blame for problem animals.

"That's the same argument that opponents of restrictive gun laws give us: It's the person, not the gun," he said.

"But the fact of the matter is that if you reduce the availability of a weapon, whether it's a pit bull or gun, you reduce the number of incidents."

In 2000, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 238 fatal US dog attacks over two decades and found that more than half were caused by pit bulls or Rottweilers. But the study also found that 82 percent of the attacks involved unrestrained dogs, and the authors cautioned against broad conclusions about the nature of pit bulls.

The committee's chairman, Senator James E. Timilty, a Walpole Democrat, said he would oppose any ban, suggesting it will have a difficult time passing.

"I'm against any kind of breed-specific legislation," he said. "I think its unfair to responsible dog owners. You start with pit bulls and are going after German shepherds next."

No US states have banned pit bulls. Several cities and municipalities have, most notably Denver and Prince George's County, Md

Giacoppo of the MSPCA said a pit bull ban would not work, because owners who train their dogs to be aggressive would not comply with it.

On Monday, Canton's Board of Selectmen passed an ordinance limiting households to one pit bull, which must be spayed or neutered and kept in an enclosed area. The move was prompted by one family's dogs that roamed the neighborhood.

"We had the dogs picked up, we fined them, but still it kept happening," said Avril T . Elkort, a member of the Canton Board of Selectmen. "We had no other option. They were terrorizing the children."

As with many animal-related issues, the debate has become emotional . Timilty said he grew up with a large and somewhat aggressive Hungarian sheepdog named Kiraly. "We adored the dog," he said, "so I guess I'm sensitive about the issue."
Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

May 7th, 2007, 07:06 PM
Well, the latest news is that a group of people including pit bull rescue people, pit bull owners, animal control officers, vets, and dog trainers are going to meet with one of the representatives that is pushing for a state-wide ban. Unfortunately there is already some in-fighting within this group of people, because one of the alternatives to the outright ban that was going to be offered was a spay-neuter restriction on the breed. There are so many pit bulls sitting in shelters and eventually being pts, plus most fatal dog attacks are by intact male animals. But the pit bull rescue people are anti-spay/neuter! They say it takes away people's rights to breed their dogs. You think out of anyone, the people who save pit bulls from being euthanised in shelters that are teeming with pits would push for spay/neuter. :confused:

Anyway, I'm not sure on the exact date of the meeting, but I am HOPING it goes well. (I'll get the inside scoop too-my mother is one of the ACO's attending.)

May 7th, 2007, 09:24 PM
Hopefully these groups can resolve their differences and stand united . It didn't work here in Ontario but it was only because our lawmaker is pretty "thick" when it comes to listening to reason.

May 9th, 2007, 08:48 AM
The rescue people are anti-speuter? That's really weird, all the rescue people I know are vehemently pro speuter. Are they saying that purebreds should be exempt from s/n, or all dogs?

I got a response from State Representative Denis Guyer that said:

"Thank you for writing to me regarding your concern about the specific dog breed legislation. I know that this is an issue that concerns you greatly.
To my knowledge, The Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government will not be making any judgment on the legislation, but rather is holding an upcoming informatory hearing to study the issue further. I have not made any judgment on the subject and will be keeping an open mind during the hearing to make the best and most responsible decision.
Thank you for the information you have provided me with, I will take it into consideration as I make a decision on the matter."

Let's hope the Massachusetts committee has its ears and minds open, unlike the Ontario Fiberals.

May 9th, 2007, 01:24 PM
Basically the people who are going to the "meeting" were discussing online the issues they wanted to discuss and how they were going to go about everything, and someone brought up a spay/neuter ordinance as a possible alternative to an outright ban, and I was told all heck broke loose.

We were contacted after the first discussion by the head of one of the pit bull rescue groups. She said she agreed with us and was totally pro-spay/neuter, but didn't speak up at the time. I guess the most vocal anti-spay group was the federation of dog owners or something like that, and they say everyone should have the right to breed their dogs. But if the representatives are dead-set on a pit bull-specific law, mandatory spay/neuter takes away less rights than a total ban on pit bulls, and I hope this group considers that.

I HOPE that all of the groups can work together during the meeting and educate about pit bulls and why BSL is not the answer! :fingerscr We are trying to be optimistic.

May 9th, 2007, 01:52 PM
Must admit, I don't like mandatory anything myself, and a mandatory spay/neuter that doesn't exempt purebreds is designed only to eliminate dogs (and perhaps cats) altogether. That's the extremist AR agenda, to elminate pet ownership.

The information presented to the Ontario Fiberals at committee hearings is online:

if that's any help.

May 9th, 2007, 06:40 PM
The suggested spay/neuter was just for pit bulls, not all breeds. It was suggested as an alternative to a breed ban. The people breeding pits around here are all BYB's, the shelters are overfull with pits, and their population seems to be increasing. We see tons of teenagers who get pit puppies and then when they are old enough they breed them and give the puppies to their friends, who in turn breed their's getting WAY out of hand. We are talking generic "pit bulls" here, not AKC reg'd American Staffordshire Terriers (Or Staff Bulls) or UKC reg'd American Pit Bull Terriers. I am all for mandatory spay/neut of these unregistered "pit bull type dogs".

May 10th, 2007, 09:12 AM
Control the BYB, we're on the same page there. Any "pet" animal - dog or cat - should be speutered. I think vets can neuter rabbits and ferrets now, too.

May 10th, 2007, 01:37 PM
:offtopic: Absolutely rabbits and ferrets can/should be fixed. with ferrets, it cuts down on the odor. With rabbits, an unspayed female has an 80% risk of developing uterine cancer. Unneutered male rabbits spray urine like cats, and intact bunnies are more territorial and can be aggressive. they should be spayed/neutered at 6 months. :) /:offtopic:

The meeting is Friday afternoon, the man they are meeting with is Representative Walsh. Hoping it goes well, unfortunately there was an incident this week where a pitbull mix bit a toddler in the face. The dog was lying down resting, and the 3 year old ran up behind the dog and grabbed it, and the dog reacted by swinging his head around and snapping. The girl had to get a few stitches, and afterwards kept asking if the dog was okay! Unfortunately the dog wasn't up to date on any shots (or licensed) so the family opted for euthanasia and decapitation for rabies testing, instead of the 10 day quarantine. It wasn't major wounds or anything, and the family members were saying the girl definitely startled the dog, but of course it was all over the media, "Pit Bull Attacks Toddler", so this may hurt our cause.

May 11th, 2007, 05:34 PM
Well my mother does think the meeting went well. The representative they met with asked a lot of questions, and seemed to understand that BSL is not good, but we shall see. Luckily the only people at the meeting were the pro spay/neuter rescues, supposedly the pro-breeding people are going to have a meeting also. :shrug:

We also looked up the dog bite stats in our town to present at the meeting. Since 1996, there have been over 250 reported bites in town (this includes dog bites human, dog bites dog or other animal, or dog is bitten by wildlife or unknown animal). Out of those 250+ bites *only* 2 involved pit bulls and both of those were dog to dog bites! One of those bites was at the shelter, 2 dogs got together and fought, the other dog was euth'd because of injuries, and the pit was euth'd for causing those injuries. I don't know what the other incident was. But the important thing, was that we have a sizable population of pit bulls in town, and *no* incidences of a pit bull biting a human!

May 11th, 2007, 07:15 PM
unfortunately there was an incident this week where a pitbull mix bit a toddler in the face. The dog was lying down resting, and the 3 year old ran up behind the dog and grabbed it, and the dog reacted by swinging his head around and snapping. The girl had to get a few stitches, and afterwards kept asking if the dog was okay!

Get a few people to write letters to the editor of all the major papers that reported this about responsible parenting and bite prevention tactics. That was a predictable and preventable dog bite incident, the dog was just being a dog, breed is irrelevant. The child should NOT have been allowed to do that to the dog, the parents are completely at fault. Those incidents make me very angry. Irresponsible parents = injured child and dead dog.

May 11th, 2007, 07:23 PM
Was the toddler/dog incident you referenced this one?

The adults in this one are real prizes. Dog allowed to roam, unvaccinated...child left unsupervised with TWO dogs. Yea, the adults are real winners. I whipped off a letter to the editor on that one myself.

I think writing to the media pointing out the issues in dog bite incidents, 99.9% of which are preventable, and tracking back to responsible ownership are essential. Let them know we see through the reports, and try to educate the public on the issues.

May 11th, 2007, 07:26 PM
We also looked up the dog bite stats in our town to present at the meeting.

You're very fortunate to have stats to present! A lot of towns don't keep them, or you can't get them without a lot of government paperwork and hullabaloo.

Let's hope the pro-breeding people are pro-purebred breeding, not mutt and backyard breeding, and emphasize breeding ethically and responsibly for temperament as well as conformation *crossing my fingers*.

May 16th, 2007, 01:46 PM
Was the toddler/dog incident you referenced this one?
Yup. Real responsible owners right?

There have been so many letters to the editor about the possible BSL that the papers started putting them in a special section, generally with photos of pit bulls. I have to say I don't think I have seen 1 pro-bsl letter. Even on the local news they interviewed people and 99% of them say no BSL.

The "informational hearing" was Monday, a lot of people showed up, including vets, rescues, and a lot of pit bull owners wearing "I love My Pit Bull" shirts. It seemed to go well the majority of the people there were anti-BSL. The politicians say they're taking everything they heard into consideration, they will continue to look at the issue, but no one is pushing bSL as of yet.

May 17th, 2007, 06:24 PM
I am glad for you that there is a lot of public support for the antiBSL. Hopefully your government does not ignore the informed people that are against it like ours did.

May 19th, 2007, 09:51 AM
The Boston Globe had a good anti-BSL editorial on May 17th. You're lucky in Massachusetts, we couldn't get any informed press before Ontario's BS - L.

May 21st, 2007, 11:54 PM
Someone watch Padone or Pedone or whatever his name is in Massachusetts...apparently he asked someone if they'd rather be bitten by a "pit bull" or a fox terrier. He must have been reading the Hansards of the Ontario committee hearings on Ontario's "pit bull" ban, there was a similar question asked at those hearings.

What a twit. Like someone wants to be bitten by ~any~ dog. Sounds to me like he wants to make his political reputation on the backs of responsible dog owners and dead dogs. Charming.

May 22nd, 2007, 05:48 PM
Yes, I heard that he kept asking people that when they were trying to give actual pro-pit bull facts at the hearing. I also heard that some pro-pit people got so frustrated waiting to get up and talk that they left the hearing (which of course accomplishes nothing). We are watching the situation closely, and many people are proposing a generic "dangerous dog" law that does not target any specific breeds, but that gives animal control more power to require that potentially aggressive dogs are neutered, see a behaviorist, etc., and greater power to seize these dogs if the owners do not follow through.

May 22nd, 2007, 10:27 PM
Thank you for bringing this up! I have passed it onto my father, who lives in MA.

I do know why some are against mandatory spaying and neutering. It is thought by many that mandatory spaying and neutering of a specific breed is the same as laws against the dog, as if they are all sterilized there will theoretically eventually be none left in that area or that those that are left are the ones that are bred illegally to be aggressive... which totally defeats the purpose.

It does really irk me when I hear otherwise seemingly intelligent people dissing pit bulls. They totally miss the point... especially when they bring up the "several people say that their dog was never aggressive a day in it's life and one day it just snapped!" While this could happen, it is more likely that the person doesn't want to admit publicly that he had an aggressive dog in his home. I don't know too many criminals who say... "never mind the whole court process. You and I both know that I did it and that it wasn't my first time, but was the first time I was caught. I deserve to be punished so let's just cut to the chase." :rolleyes: