Targeting the wrong species Pit bulls: More than the dogs themselves, bull-headed owners must be the target of city crackdown.

September 18, 1998

PIT BULLS have become the bete noirs of dog breeds. Last year, governments from Prince George's County to Buffalo Grove, Ill., banned residents from owning this breed.

The Annapolis City Council is considering a measure that would require any pit bull owner to be at least 25 years old, pay a registration fee of $100 and carry a minimum liability insurance policy of $500,000.

But Annapolis city lawmakers should be targeting recalcitrant human beings, not nasty dogs.

Pit bulls have, indeed, attacked and maimed, but so have other breeds. Owners must be responsible for a pet that is running loose or is overly aggressive.

Annapolis law already places the onus on owners for controlling their animals -- and sanctions for those who don't harshly.

Writing breed-specific legislation is doomed to fail. A number of breeds are considered pit bulls: Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and American pit bull terriers. These are strong dogs, but so are Doberman pinschers, German shepherds and Rottweilers.

With training, all can be vicious. Yet the proposed legislation targets only pit bulls.

Annapolis has strong regulations in its city code and in an Anne Arundel County ordinance that the city adopted -- to protect people from vicious canines.

The sponsors of the latest proposal, aldermen Cynthia A. Carter and Ellen O. Moyer, should first determine why existing laws aimed at aggressive dogs and that prohibit dog-fighting have not been enforced.

Annapolitans understandably are concerned about pit bulls. But vigorous enforcement of current law would do more to protect the public than another unenforced ordinance.

Pub Date: 9/18/98

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