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Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Shoved Into the Doghouse” (10/15) does a great disservice to the issue of whether pit bulls should be banned from the city. It paints pit bulls as scapegoats and pathetic victims of human mistreatment and then suggests that a D.C. Council resolution to ban them would be yet another instance of human indifference toward the poor “demonized” creatures.
There is no doubt that these dogs are often brutally mistreated in our city. But neither can there be any doubt that these dogs are, for whatever reason, dangerous. Journals for the medical and animal-control trades have amply documented that fact, though not a line from that widely available literature was quoted in the piece. In citing the Washington Post’s “Animal Watch,” the article points out the abuse, but deliberately ignores dozens of accounts of unprovoked pit bull attacks. Our latest weekly submission to that column included four, and that’s just in one week!
Adopting tougher animal-control penalties is not going to solve the pit bull problem in D.C. To get a dog declared dangerous requires a hearing by an examiner (whose docket, it should hardly need pointing out, is full as it is), plus expert witnesses and documented evidence of the threat a dog poses. Considering all the potentially dangerous pit bulls on the streets of Washington, this process cannot be counted on to remove them effectively.
Councilmember Jim Graham’s proposed ban is not the work of a crowd of malicious dog-haters. It would not, as the article suggests, wrest Chudowsky’s pit bull, Cleo, from his arms. People who owned pit bulls at the point the ban was passed would be allowed to keep them. But in the future, they would have to choose canine companions from among the hundreds of other breeds available.
The Washington Humane Society fully endorses Councilmember Graham’s proposal to ban pit bulls in the city, which he will be introducing together with amendments to strengthen laws prohibiting cruelty to animals. Whatever the root of the problem—canine or human—we know from decades of firsthand experience that his is the only workable, rational response to the dangers these dogs pose in our city.
Ultimately, it will be the citizens of Washington who decide whether the rights of people like Chudowsky to continue acquiring a troublesome breed outweigh the rights of families to live, play, and work in safety in our parks and streets. Knowing what I know about pit bulls and the fear they engender, I believe they will wholeheartedly join the Washington Humane Society in support of Graham’s ban.
Washington Humane Society