Thursday, July 17, 2014
On June 4th, 6-year old Zainabou Drame was attacked by two pit bulls while playing in a neighbor’s yard. In the six weeks since the attack pit bulls and Breed Specific Legislation have resurfaced as contentious issues in the news and in Council chambers. On July 14, 2014, the editors of the Cincinnati Enquirer weighed in with an Opinion titled Don’t ban pit bulls; punish owners. The Opinion was published on behalf of the Publisher and Editorial Board of the Enquirer.
The Editors have accepted other unsupported assertions made by pit bull advocacy groups; for example the claim that there is a “national trend in lifting bans.” This in hardly the case. A vocal minority of advocates has convinced some cities to rescind existing BSL; revocation happens primarily in towns which have had successful BSL for so long that pit bulls are no longer perceived as a threat.
At the same time other municipalities continue to add BSL. The tough new legislation in Carroll County, MS is but one example. Legislators in numerous other cities are currently considering adding or strengthening legislation.
The Editors also suggested that pit bulls are difficult to identify. This advocacy red herring has been used to intimidate Councils but is patently false. Laws and definitions have withstood court challenges in numerous states, including Ohio where Judge Herman J Weber wrote the opinion in a 1989 case:
The Editors’ prescription for after-the-fact punishment for owners fails to acknowledge that many pit bull attacks, both on companion animals and on humans, are by pit bulls which have not previously demonstrated aggression. Of the thirteen fatal pit bull attacks this calendar year, eight of the victims were killed by dogs owned by a family member. At least three more were killed by pit bulls owned by neighbors, meaning eleven of the thirteen victims were killed by family pit bulls with owners we can consider responsible.7 Increasing the punishment for irresponsible owners will not stop the attacks by well-cared for family pit bulls.
Meanwhile, the silliness vortex has spread to Council chambers where Christopher Smitherman, Chair of City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee, stated in a recent interview:
“All dogs can be trained to be vicious.”
This notorious advocacy adage dismisses the gravity of a pit bull attack by implying that it could just as easily have been a Golden Retriever that mauled Zainabou. This is an outrage to reason: it was a pit bull. Mr Smitherman’s hand-wringing is evident: “There’s something inside of me that’s saying we need to look at this,” Smitherman added.
Don’t ban pit bulls; punish owners
July 14, 2014; Cincinnati Enquirer
Should pit bull ban be reinstated?
July 7, 2014, Cincinnati Enquirer
Laws in Ohio and pit bull violence in Cincinnati
June 25, 2014; Scorched Earch
The American Pit Bull Terrier is, like all the ‘bully’ breeds, one of this group of descendants of the British ‘bull and terrier’ type fighting bulldogs. Once imported into the United States, it was bred up to be bigger again, and again used in baiting animals and in dogfighting. The American Kennel Club (founded 1884) was unwilling to register these fighting dogs, so in 1898 the United Kennel Club was founded specifically to register working pit-fighting dogs and to promote dogfighting. In order to be registered, a dog had to first win three pit fights7,8,9. The American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) became a ‘breed’. As dogfighting declined in popularity in the 1930s and 1940s, Colby (the most famous and prolific breeder of these dogs) began to search for a new market and began promoting the APBT as family pets10,11. This despite the fact that his breeding lines included child killers12.