Florida cities need option to ban pit bulls

Pit bulls Paco, left, and Money spent more than a week in quarantine at Pinellas County Animal Services after killing a Boston terrier.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Pit bulls Paco, left, and Money spent more than a week in quarantine at Pinellas County Animal Services after killing a Boston terrier.

Few encounters are more frightening than coming face-to-face with a pit bull in attack mode.

When I read about the death of Jean Post's 25-pound Boston terrier, Max, I decided to write about pit bulls after avoiding the subject all these years.

On June 15, Post, an 80-year-old St. Petersburg resident, and Max were taking their usual early morning walk near Sweetbay Supermarket at 955 62nd Ave. S, when two pit bulls, Money and Paco, approached without warning.

Money, the older and bigger pit bull, grabbed Max by the neck, chomped down with his jaws, shook Max as if he were a toy and killed him. Money also bit Post's finger when she tried to save her pet.

Pinellas County Animal Services captured the pit bulls and held them until they were released to their owner more than a week later. The owner is the kind of irresponsible person I referred to at the outset. Why were his pit bulls running free in a residential neighborhood? Did he not know that Money is a killer?

I have not spoken with Post, but an article in the St. Petersburg Times states that she is starting a campaign to change the law regarding dogs that kill other animals. She wants officials to pass a law requiring dangerous dogs, like Money, to be euthanized — no second chances — after they kill one domestic pet.

Post is being generous. I am not generous. In addition Post's proposed law, I want every city in the state to have the legal option to ban pit bulls.

How many more people and animals have to be mauled and killed by these creatures before we put safety ahead of the right to own a breed that proves time and again that it is a public menace?

Consider just a few recent headlines in the Times: "Toddler mauled by family dog"; "Two 'dangerous' pit bulls to die"; "Deputy shoots charging pit bull after it attacks man, dog"; "Pit bull kills family's dachshund." How many more of these headlines do we need to read before we face reality?

Currently, only Miami-Dade County has a ban on pit bulls, which was imposed in 1989. During the last session in Tallahassee, state lawmakers had a golden opportunity to do the right thing and pass Florida House Bill 101, which would have given municipalities the legal option to outlaw these dogs. Not surprisingly, HB 101 died in committee.

Here, I must acknowledge that I had a bad personal experience with a pit bull when I lived in Levy County during the early 1990s. It occurred one afternoon when my daughter and I drove to a local store for ice cream.

I got out of my pickup and went inside. My daughter, then 12, stayed in the truck. As I came out of the store, I saw my daughter standing beside my pickup, her back against the door. She was crying. After she had gotten out of the pickup to come inside to ask me to buy a bottle of pop, another truck had pulled alongside of us. A large, unleashed pit bull was in the bed of the other truck.

The dog was growling at my daughter. Pleading with her to remain still, I eased a hoe from my truck, inched around to the other truck and distracted the dog's attention from my daughter to me. I calmly told my daughter to get in the truck, which she did. As I was backing away to safety, the pit bull lunged. I raised the hoe and struck it between the eyes. It yelped and fell back into the pickup, blood streaming from the wound.

The pit bull's young owner ran out of the store cursing, but apparently sensing my anger, he tended to his dog. Moments later, a sheriff's deputy arrived. I explained what had happened, and three witnesses backed me up. The deputy let me go without further incident.

Luckily, my daughter had not screamed or had attempted to run. I was certain the dog would have chased her and attacked. My experience is not isolated. Each year, hundreds of other people have similar experiences in Florida.

Miami-Dade has set a successful example for managing this dangerous breed. State lawmakers need to revive and pass HB 101 during the next legislative session.

Florida cities need option to ban pit bulls 07/02/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 9, 2008 9:26am]

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