For the first time since it was enacted in 1989, voters in Miami-Dade County, Fla., will be able to decide next week whether to repeal the county’s ban on Pit Bulls.
Miami-Dade is the only county in Florida with a breed ban. It was started after an 8-year-old girl was severely bitten by a Pit Bull 23 years ago.
Commissioner Sally Heyman, who sponsored the referendum to end the ban, told The Miami Herald it was “an emotional response to a travesty in 1989 … Now it’s time for us to make an intelligent decision.”
Breed-specific legislation (BSL), including bans of “Bully breeds,” has recently come under international scrutiny. More than 211,000 people signed a petition asking the Belfast City Council to spare the life of Lennox, a family pet killed last month only because he was deemed by non-experts to be a “Pit Bull type,” which are banned in Northern Ireland.
Two weeks ago in Montreal, which also enforces BSL, a Pit Bull named Wicca was euthanized because she nipped at a woman. A heartbreaking photo of her dog dad tearfully hugging her goodbye went viral.
The Miami-Dade County ban was in the media spotlight earlier this year after the Miami Marlins signed star pitcher – and American Staffordshire Terrier dog dad – Mark Buehrle. He publicly complained that since they couldn’t live with their dog in Miami, his family had to settle instead in breed-friendly Broward County.
“It’s kind of ridiculous that because of the way a dog looks, people will ban it,” Buehrle told The Miami Herald in January.
In April, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which opposes BSL, released the results of a 40-year study on the role of breeds in dog-bite cases. The study found that “the breeds that were more aggressive towards people were small to medium-sized dogs such as the Collies, toy breeds and Spaniels” – not Pit Bulls.
The study concluded, “it has not been demonstrated that breed-specific bans affect the rate or severity of bite injuries occurring in the community.”
In a June 2 letter to Miami-Dade County veterinarians, the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association wrote, “BSL is costly to taxpayers to implement, and difficult to enforce by the already short-staffed Miami-Dade Animal Services … Moreover, the breed ban increases the already-exorbitant euthanasia rate in our county shelter, because the banned breeds are unable to be adopted by Miami-Dade residents.”
The question on the primary election ballot reads, “Shall the ordinance repealing the county’s 23 year old law prohibiting the ownership of pit bulls as a dangerous breed of dogs become effective?”
Miami-Dade County voters, if you believe dogs should not be judged on the way they look, vote YES.