(FL - US) Pit bulls being dumped after Miami-Dade ban

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Fri May 30 15:52:36 EDT 2003

Pit bulls being dumped after Miami-Dade ban

By Milton D. Carrero Galarza 
Staff Writer 
Posted May 30 2003 

Starr was found tied to a tree in Miami, left in the sweltering heat for 
three days without water.

When discovered by animal rescuers, the one-year-old brindle-furred pit bull 
was taken to a house in Fort Lauderdale.


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Since Miami-Dade County began banning pit bulls in 1989 as a dangerous breed, 
Broward County has become a dumping ground for the dogs, which are either 
abandoned or sent to live with friends or family across the county line.

Marcy Perry, who has worked for the Broward County animal care and regulation 
division for seven years, says about 35 pit bulls a week come through the 
Fort Lauderdale facility, the most of any breed. The situation is similar in 
Pompano Beach, said Allan Siegel, the division's marketing manager in Broward.

"The reason they are getting an influx of pit bulls in Broward is only 
because the ones that are not allowed in Dade County end up there," said Metro-Dade 
Police Sgt. Charlie Daye.

The American Staffordshire terrier and American pit bull terrier, known for 
their powerful jaws, have been bred for hundreds of years to be fight dogs. 
They are instinctively aggressive with other animals, although they tend to be 
affable with people, says Tim Johnston, a veterinarian for the county.

"A lot of breeds gave me a lot more trouble than the American Staffordshire 
terrier," he said. "But when a person becomes hurt by one of these dogs, they 
become hurt quite severely."

The dogs have been known to attack without provocation, as was a recent case 
where a pit bull mauled its owner's 11-year-old brother as he played Nintendo 
in Miami-Dade, Daye said.

Among other publicized cases: a 4-year-old Davie boy was attacked in his yard 
three years ago by his neighbor's pit bull. That same year, a six-year-old 
boy needed stitches after being bitten on the right thigh by a 70-lb. pit bull 
at a Boca Raton animal shelter.

Pit bulls or pit bull mixes have led the county in reported dog bites for the 
past four years, Siegel said. They were responsible for 114 bites in 2002, 
surpassing chows and rottweillers.

Broward has tried for years to ban pit bulls but the state legislature now 
prevents cities from outlawing specific breeds. Miami-Dade's ban was 
grandfathered into the state law.

Despite Miami-Dade's ban, Daye says he receives calls every day from people 
who say they have spotted a pit bull. There are many pit bull mixes and 
officials must determine if the dog meets the breed's characteristics. If the dog is 
labeled a pit bull, the owner is cited with a $500 fine and given 48 hours to 
take the dog out of the county.

That's generally when they come to Broward. If the dog is seen in Miami-Dade 
a second time, the owner is fined $1,000.

"We get a lot of people who drive all the way from Miami to bring their pit 
bulls here," said Perry, of the animal shelter. Recently, Palm Beach County has 
also seen an increase in the number of pit bulls, said Karen Buchan, 
community project manager for the county's animal care and control division. She 
attributes it to the restrictions placed on the dogs by Broward cities.

Perry sees dogs come in injured after a fight or in some cases shot by police.

Such owners frustrate rescue groups.

"Those of us who own a pit bull know what the dog is really like," said Dawn 
Heisler, a volunteer for Save the Pets, a Broward-based organization that 
finds homes for pit bulls.

"In a responsible home you will not find a more loyal, beautiful dog.

"But there are people who shouldn't be allowed to own a goldfish, much less a 
pit bull," she said.

Milton D. Carrero Galarza can be reached at mcarrero at sun-sentinel.com or at 
954-385-7912.     >    >

Copyright © 2003, <A HREF="http://www.sun-sentinel.com/">South Florida Sun-Sentinel</A> 
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