I am afraid Paul Ruffins’ article about “pit bulls” (“Dog Days,” 11/23) left out enough information about the statistics in Prince George’s County that it led Jack Hogan (The Mail, 12/7) to draw some very incorrect conclusions about my statements.
In Prince George’s County in 1996, there was a total of 853 reported dog incidents. In 2000, there was a total of 746. This is a reduction of 107 incidents, about 12 percent. Of this reduction, 14 were in reported “pit-bull” incidents (95 in 1996, 81 in 2000). To compare, incidents by German shepherd dogs were 129 in 1996 and dropped to 86 in 2000. Incidents by this non-banned breed dropped by 43! So, while we had a 15 percent drop in incidents by a banned breed (not out of line with the 12 percent overall drop), we had a whopping 33 percent drop by a breed that is not banned!
Now, I am not an expert, but to my layman’s eyes, that indicates to me that something other than a breed ban is reducing dog bites in Prince George’s County. It seems to me that if we can pinpoint that something, we should. And further investigation does uncover a few things:
Education: Animal Control has been under new management, so to speak, for the past few years. It is spending more time educating citizens when it answers animal problem calls. Officers are instructing county residents in ways to better care for their animals, to prevent incidents before they occur, to keep their dogs from being dangerous.
Enforcement: Animal Control does impound dangerous and nuisance animals. And the county has had a sitting Animal Control Commission since 1998 that hears cases about such dangerous dogs (that come in all breeds and mixes) and about people who allow their dogs to be a nuisance or run at large in the community. This commission imposes restrictions for such animals up to and including the destruction of a problem dog. And changes to the county’s animal-control code in 2001 will serve to strengthen existing, non-breed-specific laws.
Awareness: There are more and more opportunities for citizens to take their dogs to low-cost obedience classes. And now that Animal Control has a new volunteer coordinator, about 1,200 county schoolkids have seen demonstrations that show them the proper way to act around neighborhood animals to reduce the chance of being hurt. A brand new spay/neuter clinic has opened up across the street from the Animal Control facility, and it is my understanding that a Val-Pak mailing by the county Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has resulted in many, many spays and neuters being done on county pets.
All these drops in the bucket are starting to add up, but much more can be done. Those who understand the situation in this county know that the breed ban hardly makes the public safer. According to published quotes from the chief of Animal Control, most of the dogs taken because of the breed ban “are nice dogs.” He went on to note that he hadn’t yet seen a decrease in the number of pit-bull sightingswhich indicates to me that despite the killing of 5,000 pit bulls in the county since the ban began (not the 500 cited in Ruffins’ article), we still have lots of pit bulls here and, let’s face it, only 14 fewer incidents to show for it. What the ban does that the (non-breed-specific) dangerous-dog law doesn’t do is rip nice family dogs away from their familiesdogs that have never harmed anyonesimply because of what they look like.
American Dog Owners Association