Committee won't back city ban on pit bulls

Panel calls plan unfair, will bring it to council for full vote Monday

May 01, 2001|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

A City Council committee declined yesterday to recommend a ban on pit bulls in Baltimore, noting prohibitive costs and the unfairness inherent in singling out a breed.

But the Housing, Health & Environment committee will bring the issue of banning pit bulls before the full council for a vote on Monday.

"Basically, I think it discriminates against one animal," Councilman Edward L. Reisinger, committee chairman, said of the proposed pit bull ban. "There are a lot of the other animals out there like Rottweilers and German shepherds that also fight and cause problems."

Reisinger said municipalities such as Cincinnati and Prince George's County have seen the costs associated with a ban and found that the ban did not solve the problem. "It forced pit bull owners to go underground, and we don't want that," he said.

The committee also decided to ask the full council to vote on enacting legislation that calls for the enforcement of current laws regarding vicious animals.

And later this month, the committee will ask the full council to vote on legislation from Councilwoman Agnes B. Welch and Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, the city's health commissioner, that would encourage more responsibility among pet owners. They agreed to hold off on bringing those proposals before the full board until parts of the two measures can be merged.

"All animals must be licensed," Beilenson said. "They need to be spayed and neutered, period."

Under Beilenson's proposed legislation, animals would be implanted with microchips so officials can keep track of those that are licensed and those that are not. Licenses would cost $10 for dogs and cats that have been altered. Fees would be higher for people who want to breed animals, but the amount has not been determined.

In Prince George's County, a 1997 ban on pit bulls that led to the euthanasia of 2,400 dogs has been considered a failure. County officials have not decided whether to repeal the ban, said Reginald Parks, spokesman for County Executive Wayne K. Curry.

In Baltimore, a citywide ban on pit bulls would cost an estimated $750,000 annually for additional animal control staff, more shelter space, carcass disposal and transportation, Reisinger said.

Banning pit bulls also would likely spark heated debate in Baltimore, where animal control officials estimate 5,000 to 6,000 such animals live. More than 100 people attended a hearing in March to debate four proposals on pit bulls.

Welch proposed two of the bills, including one that would prohibit ownership of pit bulls or other dogs "trained to attack."

Welch said she is tired of hearing about incidents such as the Jan. 12 pit bull attack in Southwest Baltimore that left 7-year-old Kasey Eyring seriously injured.

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