Banning killer dogs

Pit bulls: Unless vicious attack dogs are outlawed, they will continue mauling innocent people.

January 18, 2001

BALTIMORE CITY and the metropolitan counties should follow Prince George's County's example and ban pit bulls.

Just a few days ago, a runaway pit bull badly mauled a 7-year-old girl who was visiting her grandmother. Neighbors tried to free the victim but "the dog was dragging her around like a rag doll," the girl's distraught grandmother said.

On Christmas Eve, another pit bull attacked a car driven by a 28-year-old woman in Arnold. It ripped into the tires, clawed the hood and left bite marks all over the car's body.

The pit bull's owner explained his dog simply doesn't like cars.

"I'm getting two more dogs, too," he defiantly told the Annapolis Capital. "I'm going to make those mean. ... I'll have them run all over Arnold."

Let's face it. Pit bulls -- which are often bred to maximize their predisposition toward vicious behavior -- can easily be turned into lethal weapons. Their owners know it, and they often treat aggressively trained dogs as feared status symbols. Why else would they give their dogs names like Killer, Uzi, Homicide and Felony?

Several years ago, when Prince George's experienced a series of horrifying pit bull attacks, county government took action. It declared any pit bull born after Feb. 3, 1997, illegal. Pit bulls, including Staffordshire terriers, that were born before that date could be kept under certain conditions. But their annual licenses cost $50 -- ten times the fee owners pay for licensing an ordinary dog.

Baltimore City and the metropolitan counties should follow Prince George's lead.

Pit bulls are known to be belligerent and unpredictable. Unlike most other dogs, which bite and release, pit bulls bite, hold, grind and shake, inflicting gruesome injury upon their victims. They're killer dogs that should not be kept outside strictly controlled environments.

City Health Commissioner Peter L. Beilenson favors stringent licensing of pit bulls, but that's an unrealistic idea. Dog owners already ignore existing rules and licensing requirements; tougher regulations won't necessarily inspire more compliance.

A total ban -- and enforcement of that ban -- would leave no room for uncertainty.

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