"Pit bulls' have been all the rage in Lubbock over the past couple of weeks, spurring a pleathora of media articles, a special announcement by the mayor, and a special meeting being called for citizens to discuss. So let's take a look at what's going on in Lubbock:
The debate heated up a couple of weeks ago when 5 miniature horses were attacked by two 'pit bulls' in their stalls. Two of the miniature horses ended up dead, and the other 3 injured.
This attack, of course, led for some to cry out the need to do something about 'pit bulls' in Lubbock (which is against the state law outlawing breed specific legislation).
Animal Services Director Kevin Overstreet admitted that Lubbock had a problem with irresponsible owners and expressed frustration that in spite of a strong state law that punishes owners of dogs that attack people, no law could be found for dog owners whose dogs attacked other animals.
Then, last week, a 'pit bull'-boxer mix dog was running astray and approached a mother and her 3 year old child as they walked up to their house. The young boy, scared by the dog, took off running (not the right response when scared by a dog, and it would have been a great opportunity for the newspaper to get a canine expert quoted to educate people on this), and the loose dog ended up biting the young boy.
The 2nd attack, led to a widely circulated editorial run by the newspaper entitled "Do Something About Pit Bulls Now!" So here is part of their solution:
The city could define which dog breeds can be dangerous.
Owners of those breeds must register their dog with the understanding of what penalties could apply if the dog got loose and caused damage.
The owner must have insurance for the dog.
The owner's property must pass city code enforcement on fencing where the dog is kept.
In other words, let's make owning a pit bull a financial nightmare.
Their idea is, pass the ordinance, and challenge the Texas state law that makes it illegal.
Overstreet, and the mayor, David Miller, seem to have a good handle on the situation. The obvious problem is that animal control either isn't enforcing, or doesn't have the resources to enforce, the city's current leash law. All of the reported attacks the city has seen thus far have involved dogs that are in violation of the county leash law. An earlier TV news report noted that Lubbock appears to have a pretty major stray/loose dog problem, noting that in the first two weeks of the year, animal control had gotten over 300 calls for stray and loose dogs. This is an animal control department that received around 20,000 calls in 2007 and picked up over 9,000 stray dogs. That's a TON for a city of only 209,000 people.
Miller seems to realize the problem is not a breed-specific issue:
And despite outcry over pit bulls - which have been blamed for killing at least a dozen goats and two miniature horses in the last month - Miller said it is not necessarily a breed issue.
"This is a citizen issue rather than a dog issue," he said. "This is a dog ownership issue. There are many other breeds other than pit bulls impacting the safety of our citizens."
The mayor said all dogs seen roaming loose will be picked up, and the city is adding more positions to keep up with all the calls, which have spiked in recent weeks.
Miller said the big problem has been residents not abiding by the laws.
This has not however, hasn't kept the media from trying to create a 'pit bull' story where there isn't one.
In a recent story about a public meeting scheduled for next week, KCBD News twisted a fact and a quote around to make something appear that there is something there that isn't. Here's the quote:
Currently state law prohibits the City from placing breed specific restrictions on dangerous dogs. However, Miller has spoken recently with State Senator Robert Duncan about possible changes in the state law.
Looks like Miller wants to change the breed specific part, doesn't it? But wait for the quote:
"I firmly believe that state law should be strengthened as it relates to animals attacking and seriously injuring another animal," said Miller, referring to the recent Pit Bull attack on five miniature horses.
The reality is that in the 15 stories I've read about Lubbock, I've yet to see anywhere that Miller has stated that he wants to overturn the state law regarding 'pit bulls'. He just appears to want to increase the state law on what punishment can be doled out if a dog attacks another animal. But that's certainly not the impression you get when they do a little word-smithing.
So if you're in the Lubbock area, head out to the Memorial Civic Center theater next Tuesday from 6-7:30 -- let them know that they need to work hard to supply the resources necessary to deal with loose and stray dogs.