T'Ordinance on pit bulls lacks focusProposed legislation...


November 08, 1998


Ordinance on pit bulls lacks focus

Proposed legislation should meet several requirements before passage. A law should be properly focused to address a substantial problem. Its public benefit must be properly balanced with any restriction of personal freedom; the good should not be indiscriminately punished with the bad. Finally, the law must be reasonable and enforceable.

The proposed Annapolis pit bull ordinance meets none of these requirements. Emotional supporters believe it will deter vicious dog attacks and dog fighting, yet the law never once mentions either.

It is not properly focused. If your aim is to deter dog attacks, create a vicious dog ordinance. Anne Arundel County statistics indicate that mixed breeds, German shepherds, labs, and Rottweilers accounted for 522 more dog bites than pit bulls in 1997. Why concentrate on pit bulls alone? If your goal is to deter dog fighting, say so, and craft a law directed toward it.

The ordinance is not reasonable. It bars pit bull ownership to citizens under 25 years old. A person could drive, serve in the military, vote and drink before he could own a pit bull. The law also requires pit bull owners to muzzle and leash their dogs on fenced-in property. These requirements are neither balanced or reasonable. They arbitrarily and unnecessarily restrict property rights and personal freedom.

Requiring pit bull owners to pay a $100 licensing fee, carry a

$500,000 insurance policy and register their dogs with the Annapolis police (in addition to Anne Arundel County licensing requirements) is neither balanced nor properly focused. This burden on responsible owners will not deter dog fighting or vicious dog attacks. Dog fighters will pay the fee and continue their criminal activity. Large purses easily justify the expenditure. A $100 pit bull fee will not discourage pit bull attacks. It will only discourage ownership of pit bulls.

The ordinance requires the registration of mixed-breed dogs who "appear to be" predominantly pit bull. It does not say who will make this determination. Police? Veterinarians? Veterinarians have testified that determination of predominant breed can't be done by appearance. Additionally, who will ensure that pit bull owners maintain their $500,000 insurance policy? The law is vague and unenforceable.

Supporters of this ordinance say they want to "do something" about vicious pit bulls. That is laudable.

Unfortunately, the ordinance presumes all pit bulls to be vicious, and that simply isn't true.

I support stricter enforcement of existing animal control laws. I will support a vicious dog ordinance and stronger dog fighting laws, but I will not support the pit bull ordinance until it is properly focused, balanced, reasonable and enforceable. In creating laws, we need to do more than just "something." We need to do the right thing.

Herb McMillan


?3 The writer is an Annapolis alderman in Ward 5.

Reader cancels, and here's why

This is my first letter to the editor. Should you choose to publish it, I will not see it because I recently canceled my subscription. I have done this for a number of reasons.

First, I have read your continuing coverage of education in Maryland and your "Reading by 9" series for many months. I am an educator and while your coverage has occasionally been enlightening, more often than not it has skewed the issues along political and educational lines that I find disconcerting.

While many professionals espouse a balanced literacy approach, your reporters have misinterpreted that message in a variety of ways, which serves to muddy the waters more than clear them. The past few years have made "whole language" a dirty word and phonics the savior of the lost generation.

In fact, a balanced literacy approach correctly names each of them as methods to teach reading that work best when used in conjunction rather than as mutually exclusive teaching styles. While I awaited your "Reading by 9" series and applaud your commitment to children, the information contained therein will not end illiteracy. Shame on you for advertising that it will.

The second reason I chose to cancel was your Oct. 22 endorsement of John G. Gary as executive of Anne Arundel County.

I am a speech language pathologist for Anne Arundel County Public Schools. The embarrassing budget fight was only the latest salvo directed at the Board of Education and professional staff of the county.

Mr. Gary has undermined the policies of the board and the needs of students. Moreover, he continually displays a lack of respect for the efforts of teachers. Mr. Gary would have us believe he is a friend of education because he released funds after a spring and summer of mudslinging, stonewalling and insults.

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