There is still no such thing as a safe pit bull
by Beth Clifton
Exhibiting the dead-game doggedness that helps to make pit bulls themselves intractably dangerous, Miami Coalition Against Breed-Specific Legislation founder/director Dahlia Canes has circled back around to re-grip and attack again, just a year after she failed in a stealth attempt to repeal the county pit bull ban in effect since 1989, and five years after Miami-Dade voters overwhelmingly affirmed the ban.
Lawsuit filed five days after pit bulls nearly killed a Miami-Dade senior citizen
This time Canes’ instrument is a lawsuit filed in federal court on October 11, 2017. This was five days after two pit bulls––one of them misleadingly called “an American bulldog”––nearly killed Palmetto Bay resident Syl Hatfield, 75, during her morning walk.
Summarized Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald, “The Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation and [co-plaintiff] Blues for Vets claim Miami-Dade’s rule violates the U.S. Constitution by unfairly depriving pit bull owners of property — their dogs. By saying one breed of dog is illegal while the rest are authorized, Miami-Dade’s ban also violates pit bull owners’ right to due process, according to the suit.”
Running up the cost of enforcement
Noted Hanks, “Courts have generally upheld laws banning pit bulls, provided the government can prove the restrictions protect public safety.” Which the Miami-Dade ordinance did quite effectively until, after the 2012 vote, Miami-Dade Animal Services chief of shelter operations and enforcement Kathleen Labrada quit enforcing the ordinance to the letter, instead finding ways to exempt dogs under common names for pit bull variants.
The likelihood of losing will not stop the usual well-funded coterie of pit bull advocates from trying to run the cost of enforcing the Miami-Dade pit bull ordinance up so high that the county legislature gives in and repeals it, regardless of the cost in human and animal lives and security.
I take a personal interest in this case and issue, from my perspective as a former Miami Beach police officer, former pit bull rescuer (see Why pit bulls will break your heart), staunch advocate for public safety, and resident of Miami-Dade county for most of my life.
Miami-Dade legislators Bruno A. Barreiro and Sally Heyman in 2016 quietly introduced their repeal bill just four years after county voters in August 2012 upheld the county’s longstanding, well-grounded ordinance at by almost a two-to-one margin.
Pit bull advocates from all over the U.S. threw money and noise into the repeal campaign, but lost to sanity and public safety even though they faced no organized opposition.
Across the U.S. and around the world a bloody battle is emerging between monied pit bull advocates and those of us who believe the public and other animals have a right to walk in our own neighborhoods and feel personally secure and safe from dangerous dogs.
The blood, it must be noted, is shed mostly by the 30-40 humans per year who are killed by pit bulls, the 600 to 700 who are disfigured by pit bulls, the tens of thousands of others who are bitten by pit bulls, and the 40,000 or more other pets, livestock, and wild animals who are killed each year by pit bulls running amok.
In Miami-Dade alone, pit bulls have killed three people in the past four years: Javon Dade Jr., age four; Carmen Reigada, 91; and Nyjah Espinosa, days short of her second birthday.
Canes herself on June 2, 2017 enthusiastically announced a fourth alleged pit bull fatality that never happened––because the fictitious report from which she took her information in that instance portrayed the pit bull killing as heroic.
Miami-Dade Animal Services disregards the law
Sadly, the dogs who killed those three victims were each intentionally mislabeled by Miami-Dade Animal Services chief of shelter operations and enforcement Kathleen Labrada as breeds not covered by the 1989 pit bull ban, despite clear language in the ordinance stipulating that it applies to any dog of characteristics which “substantially conform” to several recognized definitions of “pit bull.”
Mislabeling these killer dogs, I believe, disingenuously misled the public in two ways.
First, the deaths of Dade, Reigada, and Espinosa made clear that Miami-Dade Animal Services had not been enforcing the pit bull ban, as the department was mandated and paid to do.
Second, not enforcing the pit bull ban allowed Miami-Dade Animal Services to boast of reducing shelter intake and shelter killing, boosting their public image at cost to public safety.
Voters spoke in 2012
Miami-Dade voters spoke resoundingly in 2012, but Miami-Dade Animal Services has ignored and failed them.
Likewise, at least two Miami-Dade county legislators chose in 2016 to jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of the constituents who elected them by pandering to pit bull owners, a handful of vociferous local advocates who appear to want mainly to be able to rehome pit bulls “rescued” elsewhere within Miami-Dade, and some organizations from outside the county, which have no actual stake in the outcome of the repeal attempt, and hold the safety of Miami-Dade residents to be of little or no importance.
People of Miami-Dade need to be alerted
The good and responsible people of Miami Dade County need urgently to be alerted that there is a militant faction who desire to risk their safety and that of their animals by keeping, breeding, and further distributing a type of dog which has become notorious not only for killing and maiming, but specifically for killing and maiming members of their own households, who constitute about two-thirds of all the human and animal victims.
I have personally witnessed much bloodshed committed by pit bulls, and much suffering among the victims and survivors of pit bull attacks, including by parents and former pit bull owners who now struggle to live with the knowledge that they ignored repeated warnings and continued to trust and even actively advocate for pit bulls until suddenly it was too late.
Contrary to the myth that pit bulls somehow can be “dog-aggressive” but not “human-aggressive,” pit bulls do not discriminate between children or adults, dogs or cats, horses or goats, or among any other animals. They tear their victims apart limb by limb. There is no such thing as a safe pit bull.
Hue and cry
As a former law enforcement officer, animal control officer, veterinary technician and public safety advocate, and as a former pit bull owner and rescuer, I am sending out this hue and cry not only to the responsible citizens of Miami-Dade County, Florida, but also to everyone else caught up in community debate over breed-specific ordinances: stand up for your right to be safe in your own communities from dogs bred to kill.