Do we ban pit bulls or support current leash laws?

Pit bull attack in Yarmouth kills beloved dog, injures his owner...

Over the past few days the Cape has followed the Yarmouth story of the beloved little dog that died from an attack by a pit bull, which also left his owner injured.  The calls to "Ban Pit Bulls" are once again on the rise.

One of the television judges, probably Judge Judy, has told litigant after litgant, "When you own a pit bull it is always your fault."  Part of that, she continues, is the reputation of the breed.  Part of it is the sheer number of dog attack cases that involve pit bulls - or the American Staffordshire Terrier, as the breed is called.  

The breed is listed on most insurance companies' "dangerous dog list" and is one of the "bully breeds" forbidden by many landlords.  Of course, many pit bull owners do not inform their insurance companies there's a bully dog in the house and some tenants bring in a dog against the terms of their lease.

And, so, the call for a legal ban on pit bull ownership comes up again and again.

Full disclosure:  We are not fans of the breed.  However everything we see in the literature indicates that "Breed-Specific Legislation" does not work.  What we do see, however, is that strict enforcement of exisiting leash laws - along with a rapidly escalating series of fines for violations - may work quite well to control problem dogs of all breeds and their owners.

Most towns have a leash law in place.  However, the police do not (nor should they) drive around neighborhoods looking for dogs to capture.  Instead, the police rely on observant citizens to let them know when there is a problem.

If you have a problem dog in your neighborhood, you can start dealing with that nuisance right now.  Every time you see the dog off-leash, get a photo and call your local animal control.  Be a pest! Better still, enlist your neighbors to join you in being vigilant pests.

A lot of calls to Animal Control, especially after an owner has been admonished, will draw attention to that "bad pet owner" that they may not enjoy.  If something untoward happens to be transpiring at their residence, the last thing they want is police attention draw to them.  They will either restrain the dog or re-home it, rather than having Five-O knocking on their door every week.

The other part of this solution is to make it very expensive for an owner whose dog is repeatedly found running loose.  How 'bout a schedule of municipal fines like this?

  • First offense - written warning
  • Second offense - $100 fine
  • Third offense - $250 fine
  • Fourth offense - $500 fine and seizure of the dog

While not a perfect solution, citizen reports of leash law violations combined with a stiff schedule of fines will make a good start to controlling problems with loose dogs causing the kind of terror and grief experienced by the victims of the recent Yarmouth pit bull attack.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this issue via a signed, attributable Letter to the Editor.  Send them to [email protected] with your name, email address and town of residence.

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