Should pit bulls be banned?

Editorial Board • May 17, 2018 at 3:45 PM

The problem with pit bulls is they can go from being lovable pets to vicious maulers, particularly of children, without warning.

From 2005 to 2017, 360 Americans were killed by dogs, and out of more than 180 breeds, pit bulls were involved in 64 percent of the fatal attacks, according to DogsBite.org. That’s why Rogersville and many other communities in Tennessee and across the nation have banned pit bulls.

But is an outright ban an overreaction?

Rogersville’s ordinance has been in place for more than three decades and states that “it shall be unlawful for any person to allow any pit bulldog owned by such person, or in the control of such person, to be located in the corporate limits of the Town of Rogersville at any time.”

Nothing ambiguous about that. And if enforced, it would make it unlikely that a resident would be attacked by a pit bull because there wouldn’t be any in Rogersville.

But pit bulls aren’t the only dogs that wound or kill people. The ordinance doesn’t mention Rottweilers, which rank second to pit bulls in fatal attacks, or any of the other dogs that are considered to be dangerous by dogsbite.org — including German shepherds, Siberian huskies, great Danes, boxers, Doberman pinschers, Akitas, chows, or Alaskan malamutes, among others.

Rogersville’s ordinance apparently has never been enforced and was largely forgotten until the Board of Mayor and Aldermen was asked to approve a revision of the animal control ordinance. That prompted a resident to tell the board that her landlord said she would have to give up her pit bulls if the ban passes. She said that would be like asking her to give up her children because she doesn’t have children.

“They’re on a harness, they’re on a leash every time, they’re never outside alone by themselves, they’re not aggressive, they’re not violent. It hasn’t been enforced. Now that it’s been in the paper — if we have to move, we’re homeless.”

The obvious intent of the board to protect residents is satisfied by this resident who appears to be a responsible owner. In point of fact, 17 states now prohibit breed-specific legislation, some saying that research shows bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.

Part of the problem, says American Humane, is owner education, especially about spaying and neutering. The association says that 94 percent of reported pit bull attacks involved unneutered males.

“Fix your pit bull and the benefits are decreased aggression and a smaller, healthier overall population,” AH says.

Some communities allow pit bulls with restrictions, including that dogs be neutered, owners have insurance for any damages they may cause, and that they are always confined and under control. That seems a more reasonable approach than just banning one breed of dangerous dog. Lots of things cause harm to people. Do we ban them all?

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