The Pit Bull Ban: Where's the Evidence that Supports It?

To date, there has been no data or statistics provided to Lakewood residents that would support the need for a ban on “pit bulls” in our city. Councilman Powers has not provided any evidence that there is a problem of any specific breed of dog in our city.

Here is what the actual statistics from the City of Lakewood Department of Human Services demonstrate (2003 to 2008): Currently there are 50 dogs in the city of Lakewood that have been defined as “pit bull’ like dogs. This designation is determined by 2 animal control officers who have 20 and 8 years, respectively, of animal control experience. No particular education or certification is required and there are no objective criteria on how to judge whether a dog actually is an American Staffordshire Terrier or American Pit Bull Terrier. The American Veterinary Medical Association says that veterinarians cannot determine the breed of a dog with certainty and the National Animal Control Association says that animal control officers cannot identify the breed of a dog with certainty.

We do not know how many of the 50 dogs identified by Lakewood animal control as ‘pit bull mixes’ are actually ‘pit bull’ mixes since there is no such breed as a pit bull and since the designation is only based on subjective human judgment. In one city, a beagle puppy was identified as a “pit bull” and euthanized. Over the past 5 years, 1394 dogs have been impounded in the City of Lakewood. Only 77 (5%) of the total number of dogs impounded have been identified by animal control as ‘pit bulls’. A dog is impounded because of aggressive behavior, biting, or injuring any person or domestic animal.

This means that banning ‘pit bulls’ in the City of Lakewood will not decrease the work of animal control officers, since 95% of animals causing harm to the community would still require the diligence and repeated home visits necessary to remove any dog from city limits. Banning “pit bulls” will actually increase the expense and work of impoundment by creating more work for animal control officers since they will be focusing on good, well-behaved dogs and responsible owners who are doing nothing wrong and will still be required to concentrate on the actual aggressive, biting dogs of other breeds.

We know that 94% of dog bites in the City of Lakewood are by dogs other than those designated as ‘pit bull’ type. It is clear that our City definitely would not be safer, or save money, by banning a specific breed. In a detailed analysis of all dog bites occurring in Lakewood between March 2007 and April 2008 both German Shepherd mixes (12%) and Labrador mixes (12%) were responsible for more bites than dogs identified as ‘pit bull’ mixes (10%). Boxers and Chihuahuas are also high on the list causing 8% and 9% of bites respectively. One of the more serious unprovoked attacks was by a Golden Retriever, causing 12 puncture wounds. There were 2 unprovoked attacks by Rottweiler mixes. Of the bites by ‘pit bull’ mixes, there was no evidence of the ’locking’ jaw as Councilman Powers would have us believe, nor any evidence that these dogs bite more often or behave more aggressively. In the serious incident of a ‘pit bull’ bite, occurring in January (as mentioned by Councilman Powers in each meeting regarding this issue), the injured party had been drinking all night, went to an after hours party at the home of a person he did not know, at 3:30 AM was feeding pieces of meat to the dog he did not know, and may have been teasing the dog.

Thirty percent of all dog bites in Lakewood occurred in the home, by the family dog. Another 10% of bites in our city occurred due to children teasing or harming the dog. In fact, 80% of all dog bites reported in Lakewood over the past year could have been prevented with proper education and training... of humans!

We know that 93% of all complaints regarding dogs in the city of Lakewood pertain to other breeds of dogs, not ‘pit bulls’. Again, will this ban save money on the enforcement of dog safety in the city?Definitely not. Councilman Powers stated in the Lakewood Observer (May 27, 2008) that Parma and Garfield Heights reported great success with the pit bull ban in their communities. Yet, after the public hearing meeting of June 10, 2008, Councilman Powers admitted that, in fact, there is no hard evidence that these bans have been effective, either financially or in terms of the safety of the community. We know that there are bad people who harbor and breed dogs for the wrong reasons. They mistreat them, starve them, injure them, set them on fire, never socialize them, cage them, chain them, feed them gasoline, and fight them—all to make them meaner. We know that there are even more people that rescue these dogs and find them to be loving, gentle animals even after suffering terrible abuse by humans. People purchase and rescue these dogs because they're kind to people, intelligent, gentle with children, and willing to serve their owners. We know that this proposed ban will not save the City money, and will not make the city safer. Read the facts.

Efforts to make the City safer from our canine companions must be aimed at public education, particularly in the schools, prevention of animal abuse, and enforcement of current dog regulations. We cannot afford to spend time and money searching out the many well-behaved dogs with responsible owners that are not causing any problems for our City.

Donna Myers

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Volume 4, Issue 14, Posted 6:40 AM, 06.26.2008