Pit bull owners assail city council Animal rights backers also attack proposal to put curbs on breed

October 06, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Pit bull owners and animal rights activists assailed the Annapolis city council last night for proposing a law that would make it more difficult to own that breed of dog in the city.

Introduced last month by Alderman Cynthia Carter, the bill would allow the city to track all pit bulls through the Police Department and require pit bull owners to be at least age 25 and to carry $500,000 in liability insurance. Under the bill, owners would have to pay registration fees and report the birth of puppies.

The bill would also require owners to pay a $100 registration fee to police within 48 hours of assuming ownership and to provide a photo of the animal.

Owners also would have to provide proof of liability insurance and would be required to keep the dog in a building or kennel, or muzzled and restrained in the owner's absence.

In packed council chambers, more than 50 supporters and opponents showed up to express concerns. A petition against the bill was presented to the council in testimony that was emotional at times.

"I feel like I am standing in communist China," said Leslie Vance, who lives on Riva Road near Annapolis.

"You are not just singling out one type of dog to be vicious, but you are singling out a group of owners to be irresponsible. It's wrong," Vance said. "My friends can't afford the insurance and will have to put the dog to sleep or move out of the city."

Carter, a Ward 6 Democrat, introduced the legislation because of recent pit bull attacks in the city and surrounding communities. "I am hoping this law will protect the animals from the most horrible mistreatment. We are not trying to ban the dogs," she said.

Many jurisdictions, including Baltimore and Baltimore County, have passed dangerous-dog laws that make it easier to confiscate vicious animals that have been abused. The Prince George's County Council passed a law lat year banning all pit bulls.

Pamela S. Loeb, a member of the commission for animal control in Prince George's, said the measure has caused "a witch hunt in our community to rid the county of the dreaded pit bulls. All dogs have teeth and are capable of inflicting damage. The problem is not the dogs but the owners."

Sam Leach, a member of the Humane Society of Calvert County, agreed.

"I place dogs here [in Annapolis] because this is a city with a great deal of intellect and with a great deal of common sense," Leach said. "What I didn't expect was to find the city council making sweeping generalizations of a certain type of dog. What if we were to say all fat people are lazy. I appeal to you to use your common sense; it can't be right."

Leach's comments were greeted by applause.

Carter said Annapolis is trying to take an aggressive approach to the situation instead of waiting for an attack by a vicious dog.

Reaction to the bill has been intense since its introduction Sept. 14 by Aldermen Cynthia A. Carter and Ellen O. Moyer.

Recent pit bull attacks in Annapolis and across the state -- along with increasing reports of dogfighting in the county -- prompted Moyer and Carter, to draft the legislation.

The Annapolis measure follows efforts in other localities to enact laws that make it easier to confiscate problem dogs and protect residents. Annapolis' law, if passed, would be one of the toughest because of the age and insurance requirements.

Most of the other localities have laws allowing abused or vicious dogs to be confiscated, Annapolis would go a step further by restricting a breed.

The bill carries penalties of a $250 fine for the first offense and $300 for repeat offenses. It defines pit bulls as Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and American pit bull terriers.

Passing the law could prove difficult if last night was any &L indication. About 30 people signed up to testify against the bill, and the meeting lasted several hours.

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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