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Saturday letters: Laws on dogs shouldn't be driven by prejudice

Pit bulls are among the breeds most often targeted for breed-specific laws.

New York Times

Pit bulls are among the breeds most often targeted for breed-specific laws.

I have long read Bill Maxwell's columns, grateful for a glimpse of life from a perspective so different from my own. So I was shocked to read his call for breed-specific legislation, based on prejudice and stereotyping, when the writer himself knows the injustice of similar race-specific discrimination.

Why didn't Maxwell check with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose website cites the American Veterinary Medical Association:

"When a specific breed of dog has been selected for stringent control, 2 constitutional questions concerning dog owners' 14th Amendment rights have been raised: first, because all types of dogs may inflict injury to people and property, ordinances addressing only 1 breed of dog are argued to be under-inclusive and, therefore, violate owners' equal protection rights; and second, because identification of a dog's breed with the certainty necessary to impose sanctions on the dog's owner is prohibitively difficult, such ordinances have been argued as unconstitutionally vague, and, therefore, violate due process."

Just Google "find the pit bull" for an alarming sampling of images of the many misidentified breeds.

As evidenced by the redemption of Michael Vick's killer dogs, the problem is not with the dog's breed, but with the dog's owner! Responsible dog owners don't let their dogs fight, don't keep their dogs chained, and don't allow them to roam unleashed either.

C. Mangialardi-Diaz, New Port Richey

Pets pose risks

Bill Maxwell is one of the best columnists either locally or nationally. His positions are always well thought out and his recommendations demonstrate a logical, reasoned process.

In this column, he has successfully challenged the idea that all things about pets and animals are cute and wonderful. Most news outlets (including this one) are full of "human" interest stories about animals. Well, animals are not so great after all. Thank you, Mr. Maxwell, for reporting on the risks of pet ownership.

Unfortunately, elsewhere in your newspaper was an item about an animal rights organization trying to raise funds. There are so many good causes that help people. Peoples' health and education are far more noble causes than any animal causes.

I am sick of people who act as if situations like the ones Maxwell described do not exist. It saddens me when I see that parents keep these kinds of animals around small children. It is a tragedy waiting to happen, one that has happened to too many families.

Please let go of your killer pets and focus that time, energy and money on those things that can help the health and welfare of mankind.

Joe Troy, St. Petersburg

Reject breed-based laws

Bill Maxwell's column regarding dog bites was lacking some basic facts. A more thorough review of breed-discriminatory legislation and its potential impact in Florida is warranted.

The Legislature thankfully did not pass any bill this past session regarding breed discrimination. If such laws were implemented it would cost the already strapped Florida taxpayer-funded animal control budgets more than $25 million, according to a study done for Best Friends Animal Society. The government would have to prove that a dog was a "pit bull" via DNA testing. Friendly pets would be seized, euthanized and their bodies disposed of.

Not all dog bites occur from particular breeds, but nowadays newspapers only seem to report bites by "pit bulls." Dog owners should definitely be held responsible for such occurrences and some states prevent a reckless owner from owning any dog — that makes sense. Cities and counties have great leeway under current state laws to draft tough ordinances regarding vicious dogs, and Maxwell mentions that Pinellas County has some of the toughest.

If animal control isn't enforcing these rules, then contact your elected officials to find out why. Chances are their staff has been cut and they don't have the resources to do the job.

Studies show breed-discriminatory laws don't work and will only add an additional burden to the strapped budget of animal control departments.

Denise Lasher, Lutz

Blame owners, not dogs

In this column, Bill Maxwell cited a number of instances of dogs causing harm and named many different types of dogs, among them Labradors and Rottweilers. He never addressed the fact that it is not the dogs but the irresponsible owners who are causing the problems.

I have owned many dogs, among them Labradors, Rottweilers, German shepherds, Irish wolfhounds and others. Most of them had bad reputations as aggressive dogs. All of my dogs were house-kept and given love and attention, not tied in the yard to develop nasty instincts. Neighbors could walk into my house and pet the dogs at any time. The dogs would bark but never attack a stranger, and when they saw that I accepted the stranger they would also accept that person.

Almost any dog that is kept tied outside will become vicious and attack people and other dogs. Maybe a law should be passed to put the burden on the owners to properly love and care for their dogs instead of trying to ban many dog breeds that are not inherently vicious but will learn it if neglected.

William Fullerton, Sun City Center

Breaking law is no way to contribute Sept. 11, letters

Immigration reform should be reasonable and humane

I was saddened but unfortunately not surprised to read the letters regarding immigration on Sept. 11. They speak to an anti-immigrant sentiment in our society that is fed by rhetoric and misrepresentations thrown about in our media. The Justice for Immigrants Committee in the Diocese of St. Petersburg has come to realize that what is really necessary to overcome fear of the "stranger" in our midst is to hear their stories, to meet their children and to walk the proverbial mile in their shoes.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops call for international efforts is designed to create conditions in which people do not have to leave their homes out of necessity. Most undocumented immigrants flee to the United States to escape poverty or political unrest. It is sometime said that there are two signs at the border. One says "Help Wanted" and the other "Keep Out." Our country desires the labor that is provided by many undocumented persons, yet we relegate them to existing in the shadows of our society where they are easily exploited or victimized. With only 5,000 annual visas for low-skill workers, the demand for workers far exceeds the "legal" supply. Most undocumented immigrants strongly desire to regularize their status, but there is simply no way to do so within the current system in our country.

It is not practical or even possible to round up and deport the estimated 10 million to 12 million undocumented persons in our country. All-out enforcement measures would further cripple our economy and drive up the price of goods and services dependent upon the availability of low-wage workers.

I think that we can all agree that the immigration system in our country is in dire need of reform. An immigration reform package that would require undocumented immigrants to register would assist those who wish to fully participate in society as well as help to weed out unsavory characters. Congress must work toward a process of "Earned Legalization" whereby immigrants pay a reasonable fine and back taxes, become proficient in English within five years, and move to the back of the line. The future of our beautiful country depends upon reasonable and humane comprehensive immigration reform. More information can be found at the Justice for Immigrants website:

Sabrina Burton Schultz, director of Life Ministry, Diocese of St. Petersburg

Misinformation thrives in immigration debate | Sept. 13, PolitiFact

Let them come legally

I found the column on immigration by Robert Farley offensive. The way he attempts to compare illegal aliens to legal immigrants of the past is reprehensible. Being a descendant of immigrants on both sides of my family, I agree each wave of immigrants that came to the United States was accused of taking jobs and frowned upon originally. However the major difference is these immigrants came to this country legally. Please do not insult our intelligence or try to spin illegal aliens as undocumented immigrants or workers. They have already become law-breakers by illegally staying in or illegally coming to this country.

For the record, I grew up in Los Angeles and anchor babies are real and are deliberate. I am all for immigration but only legal immigration. I think every person here illegally should go back to their country of origin and apply legally.

Nicholas Del Bone, St. Petersburg

Evolving economic realities | Sept. 18, letter

Leveling the playing field

The letter writer hit the nail on the head. In American business today, regardless of industry, there has never been more power in the hands of so few. Small and private companies are at a major disadvantage in today's environment because government agencies refuse to level the playing field.

The mega-corporations start or join contracting companies designed specifically to eliminate competition. The overwhelming majority of these contracting companies charge fees to play in their game. Why would they want to sign deals with 40 smaller companies around the country when they can sign one or two with mega-corporations and collect their kickbacks, oops, I mean fees?

The first step to restoring a level playing field is to eliminate national group purchasing organizations. All purchasing decisions (not purchases) should be made at a local or state level. Only then will you see the middle class thriving and people caring about those they employ!

Dean Walters, Ruskin

Can we fix Tampa's mean streets? | Sept. 17

Giving bicyclists a chance

I applaud the excellent column by Sue Carlton calling attention to the need for a resolution to the fact that Florida is rated among "the deadliest for bicyclists." But that is just the tip of the iceberg. I personally drive by that intersection where my good friend LeRoy Collins Jr. was killed and think of him every day. He was a prince of a man, larger than life.

Bicycle lanes throughout the city would be a great start, and I for one would gladly lead the charge to get that accomplished. I hope that every candidate for public office will make that need a part of their campaign platform.

But the problem is even greater. Almost every morning wherever I may travel someone on my left or right is either putting on their make-up while driving, texting, holding a cell phone to their ear, switching lanes without using a turn signal, or running a red light. Bicyclists don't stand a chance.

LeRoy Collins' death should not be in vain. It should be a battle cry to law enforcement to crack down, hard, on irresponsible and careless drivers. The state Legislature should impose laws that prohibit hand-held cell phone use while driving, as well as texting, and treat the red light runners like drunken drivers. Call it the "Collins Law" and maybe then the bicyclists will have a chance.

John Osterweil, Tampa

Panthers and cash cows of Plant High Sept. 17, Daniel Ruth column

Give all activities a boost

I very much appreciated Daniel Ruth's column about the inequities between the Plant and Leto football budgets, and rich and poor schools in general, an issue seldom discussed. The differences in the football budgets are also the differences in the band budgets, cheerleading budgets, drama budgets, etc. While parents and community leaders have a right to support their children's schools, citizens should be aware of the realities in funding, and the overall impact on society.

I became aware when our son was in the marching band at Countryside a few years ago. As Pinellas County budgets zero dollars for marching bands, we paid for it. It cost $500 a year, though the parent booster club provided volunteer opportunities to offset the cost. Today, he marches in his university band, so I consider that money and time well-spent.

If I were in charge of drop-out prevention, I'd advocate for pumping money into extracurricular activities so every kid could be in band, drama, sports, etc. That is the secret to raising happy kids who like going to school. Take the money that schools like Plant get every year for FCAT "rewards," and put it toward funding needy booster clubs and see what happens.

As a teacher and a parent, I know how important extracurricular activities are. Usually the best students are involved and worst ones are not. Anyone doubting wisdom of paying for all kids to participate should consider this: The students I have now have been the least involved in school activities, but they cost taxpayers the most — I teach now at the jail.

Sarah Robinson, Safety Harbor

Holes in the GOP audit | Sept. 21, Daniel Ruth column

Predictable prejudice

As the president and the Democratic leadership allow one of their largest defense contractors to gouge the taxpayers with millions in overbilling, Daniel Ruth frets that Marco Rubio may have received a Happy Meal at GOP expense.

His piece would be funny if it weren't so contrived and prejudicial. Yawn.

Charles Piercey, Tarpon Springs

Laughable ads | Sept. 18, letter

Situation isn't laughable

The letter writer attempts to detract from Marco Rubio's campaign ads and calls them laughable because the ads talk about the unprecedented, massive spending by the Democrats in Washington. This spending has done nothing to create jobs for out-of-work Americans, and it is hard to see what he finds so laughable about all this.

I don't see too many people around me in these challenging times doing those "belly laughs" that he talks about. There is nothing funny about Americans feeling that Nero is fiddling while Rome burns.

B. Howerton, Largo

Saturday letters: Laws on dogs shouldn't be driven by prejudice 09/24/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 24, 2010 4:24pm]
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