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Talk Of Breed Specific Legislation Renewed After Recent Pitbull Attacks

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 6, 2012 9:40PM

Image Credit: Tommy Territt
The New Year's Day attack of a jogger by two pitbulls at Rainbow Beach has sparked yet another conversation over whether there should be a ban on the breed. 2nd Ward Ald. Robert Fioretti suggested reopening dialogue on banning the breed after the attack that left Joseph Finley critically wounded. Two days after the Rainbow Beach attack, a Streets and Sanitation worker was confronted by a pitbull in an alley while he was emptying garbage. The Streets and San worker wasn't bitten in the incident, but did injure her back. The dog's owner was cited for not restraining his dog and for not having a dog license.

Fioretti, in his call to reconsider a ban on pitbulls, said he heard "nothing but bad" results from pitbull ownership, and that owners of pitbulls involved in attacks might deserve jail time.

Maybe it is something the city council should take a good hard look at,” in terms of what’s happening in our neighborhoods and with the control of these type of animals,” he said.

Since Fioretti has heard "nothing but bad" and we know he occasionally reads Chicagoist, allow your humble editor-in-chief — and onetime pitbull owner — to provide a counterpoint. I've written numerous times that, in my experience, pitbulls are among the sweetest dogs I've ever encountered. I'm not only relying on the years when my dog was alive, but other pitbull owners.

A dog, regardless of the breed, is only as bad as its owner. Veterinarian Dr. David Gonsky told Fox News Chicago that breed specific bans are akin to the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" argument.

Fox News Chicago also talked with Paula Faseas of PAWS Chicago, who explained what exactly makes a dog aggressive.

Faseas said that any dog over 50 pounds can be dangerous, it has to do with the people that own them. Pit bulls are not genetically more dangerous, she said. As a terrier, they do have a chase instinct, but there is no inborn aggression, she said. Instead, aggression comes from the socialization of the dog.

What does reduce aggression in dogs, besides good training, is spaying and neutering, which is something former The Price is Right host Bob Barker has been preaching since the days of black-and-white television. PAWS will spay or neuter a pet for only $25, for people on Medicaid. The City Clerk's office's recently launched dog registration initiative is another way to ensure dog owners are held accountable when their pets attack someone.

Breed specific legislation is looking at the forest for the trees. Another person who's opposed to breed specific legislation is former White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle. Buehrle won't be moving his family to Miami-Dade County because of a ban on pitbulls.

"Eighteen-month-old Slater Buehrle is an American Staffordshire Terrier — a type of pit bull — and keeping one is illegal in Miami-Dade.


"Miami-Dade’s pit bull ban, enacted in 1989, declared American Staffordshires, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers dangerous and outlawed them, along with mixes that display certain of the breeds’ characteristics.

Controversial from start, the ban is under attack by groups fighting breed-specific legislation in Miami-Dade and dozens of other jurisdictions around the country.

One Miami lawmaker is proposing a bill this legislative session that would result in reversing Miami-Dade’s ban on pit bulls.

'It really is breed discrimination,' state Rep. Carlos Trujillo said of current law, 'and it ends up with people lying, or people just killing these dogs.'

"Breed advocates say that irresponsible, sometimes abusive humans are to blame when pit bulls turn vicious because the dogs are friendly and loyal by nature.

"Breed foes say that pit bulls kill or maim more people than any other type of dog. In statistics just released,, a national dog bite victims’ group, said that pits were responsible for 22 of the 31 fatal dog attacks in the United States in 2011, 'despite only comprising about 5 percent of the total U.S. dog population.’

"But Mark Buehrle believes 'it’s kind of ridiculous that because of the way a dog looks, people will ban it. Every kind of dog has good and bad, and that depends on the handlers. If you leave a dog outside all the time, it’ll be crazy. Slater would never do anything harmful.'

"Mark Buehrle grew up with cats, rabbits and fish, but got his first dog with Jamie. They married in 2005 and are spokespeople for Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society, which accepted 22 of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick’s pit bulls."

I agree with Fioretti that abusive and neglectful dog owners should be held accountable for the actions of their pets, if not have their pets removed from their custody. But banning a breed isn't the answer.