Recently the Rochester Hills City Council and administration discussed the need for a breed specific pit bull ban following a few occurrences of pit bulls attacking other dogs. This debate drew much discussion from community members on the pros and cons of banning a specific breed from the community. It is important during any emotional debate to take a step back and review the facts so that a knee jerk reaction does not cause an over reach of government.
Councilman Webber’s Response first;
In this case, I believe that the existing ordinance may need to be strengthened but that a breed specific ban on pit bulls is not warranted. I have come to this conclusion for several reasons:Pit Bull Info
-The focus should be on the owner and not the dog. One resident made the point that there are no bad dogs, simply bad owners. Most dog owners offer a warm and loving environment for their dog. A small minority of dog owners do not. The Michael Vick – dog fighting case comes to mind here. Years later, many of these dogs have thrived as a part of loving environments – the story has been well documented in Sports Illustrated and other media outlets.
– How do you identify if a dog is a pit bull and who is qualified to decide? This was a major point that was raised by community members. While I am not a dog breed expert, my understanding is that there are several different variations of pit bulls. There are also many mixed breeds. How can we expect our ordinance patrol to have the expertise to say one dog is a pit bull and one is not?
– Breed specific ordinances do not work. Around the same time that one of the problems occurred in Rochester Hills, there was another high profile pit bull attack of a child in Waterford. It is interesting to note that Waterford has had a ban in place on pit bulls for a long time. Clearly in this case the dog owner did not know of the ordinance or did not follow it.
– Where do you draw the line on what breeds are banned? During our research on this issue, the city found that of the over twenty reported dog bites in 2009, there were at least fifteen different breeds that had been reported. Any dog is capable of biting another dog or a human. If we banned one breed, we would need to look at all breeds in the interest of fairness.
– Would the ban be immediate or would we grandfather in pit bulls that currently live within our city? This is a major point when discussing how to implement any new ban. Taking an older dog away from the home and family they have been a part of because of this ban would be insensitive at best. Yet grandfathering in pit bulls would keep them in our community and so nothing would change for potentially several years.
So if we do not ban pit bulls, what is the answer? How do we keep our community safe? Government cannot ban everything that may be able to harm you or your family – it is impossible and to attempt to do so would be an over reach of government. But our city can review and strengthen the existing ordinance which requires dogs to be on leashes in public and for them to be licensed with the city, among other items.
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It should be noted that there are many state and county laws on the books that compliment the ordinance that we have. A stiffer fine or penalty on the dog owner is perhaps warranted to reinforce the point of the responsibility an owner has for their pet’s behavior in public.
I am sure that the community will continue to deliberate on the issue and determine an appropriate response for what has been a series of tragic events that should be kept in proper perspective.Michael Webber Rochester Hills City Council
Councilman Brennan’s Response next:
There is no single, officially recognized breed of dog named “pit bull.” The term “pit bull” generally refers to dog breeds in the Molosser family, including American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Most dog laws include all pitbull types as pit bulls. Any dog can bite or attack another animal or human, but pit bulls top the list when it comes to the number of attacks, the severity of injuries inflicted on people and animals, and the number of human fatalities in the United States from dog mauling.
According to DogsBite.org, between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2008, “Of the 88 fatal dog attacks recorded by DogsBite.org, pit bull type dogs were responsible for 59%. This is equivalent to a pit bull killing a U.S. citizen every 21 days during this three-year period. The data also shows that pit bulls commit the vast majority of off-property attacks that result in death. Only 18% of the attacks occurred off owner property, yet pit bulls were responsible for 81%. The City of Rochester Hills is currently revising its ordinance in response to two recent incidents regarding pit bulls. In February, a puppy was killed after two pit bulls owned by a neighbor jumped a fence and entered the puppy’s yard. In August, another puppy was killed while out walking with its owner when it was attacked by two pit bulls running loose. We are fortunate that neither children nor adults were attacked by these dogs.
In neighboring Sterling Heights, the number of animal control and police runs involving pit bull attacks increased from 55 in 2008 to a projected 316 runs in 2010. Although pit bulls account for only 2% of the dogs registered in the City, those dogs account for 33% of the runs. Statistically, you have a significantly greater chance of being attacked by a pit bull in a public place than from all other dog breeds and mixes combined. Most dog bites and attacks occur on the dog owner’s property for all breeds except attacks by pit bulls. The majority of pit bull attacks occur after a pit bull has escaped the owner’s property and is running loose. This makes pit bulls significantly more dangerous to the general public because anyone in the dog’s way can become a target.
Pit bulls are large dogs with tremendous strength and have powerful jaws. Unlike most other dog breeds, when pit bulls bite down, they shake their heads violently, causing internal damage to organs and bones. Pit bulls also have the jaw power to sever limbs with their bites. Pit bulls often go for the face and neck, crushing the throat and tearing out veins. Once an attack has started, even the dog’s owner or handler will have difficulty regaining control of the dog. When more than one pit bull attacks, it stimulates the “pack drive” in the dogs and most victims of a multiple pit bull attack will be severely maimed or killed.
Pit bulls are noteworthy for attacking adults almost as frequently as children. This is a very rare pattern: children are normally at greater risk from dog bite because they play with dogs more often, have less experience at reading dog behavior, are more likely to engage in activity that alarms or stimulates a dog and are less able to defend themselves when a dog becomes aggressive. Pit bulls seem to differ behaviorally from other dogs in having far less inhibition about attacking people who are larger than they are. They are also notorious for attacking seemingly without warning, a tendency exacerbated by the custom of docking pit bulls’ tails so that warning signals are not easily recognized. Thus, the adult victim of a pit bull attack may have had little or no opportunity to read the warning signals that would avert an attack from any other dog. With regard to a solution, any law strong enough and directed enough to prevent the majority of life-threatening dog attacks must discriminate heavily against pit bulls. Such discrimination will never be popular with the owners of these breeds, especially those who believe their dogs are neither dangerous nor likely to turn dangerous without strong provocation. Neither will breed discrimination be acceptable to those who hold out for an interpretation of animal rights philosophy which holds that all breeds are created equal. The mantra of pit bull lovers is that “ owners are the reason why these attacks occur in every single case irresponsible view, given the statistics and hyper-aggressive nature of these dogs. One might hope that educating the public against the acquisition of dangerous dogs would help; however, the very traits that make certain breeds dangerous also appeal to a certain class of dog owner. Thus, publicizing their potentially hazardous nature has tended to increase this breed’s popularity.
I would propose that the City of Rochester Hills adopt legislation that was enacted by the City of Denver, Colorado in 1989. The legislation banned pit bulls within city limits and the rate of pit bull attacks in Denver dropped from 27% to 2% over the next three years. Since 1989, more than 230 cities and 32 states have banned pit bulls within their city limits. Denver’s ordinance allowed for the pit bulls living in the City to be kept by residents if certain requirements were met:
• Increased annual registration fees.
• Maintaining a $100,000.00 liability insurance policy
• Keeping the dog muzzled and leashed at all times when it is off the owner’s property.
Dogs born in or transferred to the City after a certain date did not qualify for the exemption. The ordinance was challenged in court and in November, 1991, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the ban when it declared that the Denver ordinance did not violate the State Constitution.
This is exactly the kind of ordinance we need in Rochester Hills to ensure the safety of the families that reside here. The statistics are overwhelming that pit bulls are inherently dangerous and pose a serious threat to anybody who gets in its way. There is no amount of money that can compensate a victim who has been maimed and disfigured by a pit bull. If you want to read some truly tragic and heartbreaking accounts of children and adults who have been attacked by pit bulls, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The only realistic solution is to ban the dogs from the city so that nobody will be terrorized by these vicious brutes. In Rochester Hills, people should not be afraid to walk down a neighborhood street, or worse, be on their own property and be assaulted by a vicious dog.Council Member J. Martin Brennan represents District 2 in Rochester Hills. He may be reached at email@example.com