Advocates for a repeal of Miami-Dade's 23 year old breed ban were dealt several blows this week. Earlier this week, Senate Bill 1322 was halted in committee. After flying through the Government Oversight Committee by a vote of 9-2, and the Community Affairs Committee 7-0, the law got held up by the Budget Committee by a vote of 4-2. One. Stinkin. Vote. This wasn't the end though of the effort to pass a law that would end Miami-Dade's ban by elminating the grandfather clause they have that allows them to have a breed ban, even though every other city in Florida is prohibited from having such a policy.
But yesterday, HB 997, the House Companion bill, which passed in all three committees by overwhelming margins (17-0 in the State Affairs Committee, 13-1 in the Community and MIlitary Affairs Committee and 14-0 in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee), was postponed from its second reading in the full chamber of the House. This WAS RESCEDULED for next week, but time is running low for the bill as session ends next Friday.
Before I tell you how you can help, I'm going to tell you why it is extremely important for the Miami -Dade's law to be repealed - -and why state lawmakers should force the city's hand in doing so.
Miami-Dade's ban was enacted in 1989 following a couple of high-profile dog attacks in the city -- in what was an obvious act of Panic Policy Making. When reading through their ordinance, it is obvious the amount of mis-information they used in crafting their policy.
The first 5 statements are "whereas" statements -- that give the rationale for why they felt the need to pass the ordinance. The first two clearly articulate the panic policy-making angle.
The third "wheras" statement says "whereas pit bull breeds were developed for the purpose of fighting dogs and other animals" becomes the start of misinformation. While there are a lot of different 'breed histories' that float around out there, the simple one from the UKC is probably as good as any in noting that the dogs were purposely bred for gameness and strength -- and were commonly used for hunting, driving lifestock and as family companions. So, not dog fighting at all, and not "fighting" other animals. Hunting yes. And it should be noted that about 2/3 of all breeds of dogs were designed with the purpose of hunting something.
Meanwhile, the fourth "whereas" statement, is where I want to spend the bulk of my time. The statement is broken into four parts -- I'm going to state each (in italics) and then respond to each one in sequence:
"Whereas, to increase its effectiveness as a fighter, certain pit bull traits have been selected and maximized by controlled breeding
This "controlled breeding" thing is a loaded statement, but first all, let's note that only a very small percentage of dogs, of any breed, in this country are bred through controlled breeding programs with one of the breed clubs. Pit bulls are no exception. While there are certainly people who do controlled breeding with all breeds of dogs, with pit bulls, there is every reason to believe that at least as many (or more) are breeding them for their many positive traits vs trying maximize negative ones.
1) a set of powerful jaws with the exceptional ability to grip, lock and tear when the dog bites
The wonderful workings of urban legend. The bite strength meme was tested in 2003 and proven not to be true. While the study isn't perfect in its structure, it does conclude that a pit bull does not have a stronger bite than other breeds of dogs, and is actual proportional to its relative size. The "locking jaw" myth has also been debunked by actual science. As Dr. Lehre Brisbin wrote: "The few studies which have been conducted on the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls shwo that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology is no different than that of any breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of "locking mechanism" unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier."
2) a unique insensitivity to pain that causes pit bulls to be exceedingly tenacious in the attack
Again, squelched by science. All dogs feel pain. If you've ever spent any time around pit bulls you'd notice that they're sensitive to pain -- thorns, rocks, cold, wet -- mine are tortured by all of them.
3) Unusually aggressive temperament toward human beings an animals
Again debunked by actual research. A fairly recent study, done in 2009, actually measured various types of aggression of different breeds of dogs toward humans and other dogs. Of the 33 breeds measured in the study, "pit bulls' were actually among the bottom 4 breeds in owner directed aggression and below average on stranger-directed aggression. In aggression toward other dogs, both known dogs and unknown dogs, "pit bulls' were above average, but not the highest in either category and statistically on par with many different breeds commonly thought of as friendly.
4) And an extraordinary directness in their method of attack that does not include the common warning signs such as barking or growling displayed by other breeds
The "fact" behind this statement appears to be based on a statement from Randall Lockwood back in 1987 - -a statement that he has since recinded. All dogs show similar warning signs before biting/or attacking, people just have to be aware of dog body language.
So, while the law was an act of panic policy making, and the rationale for it contradicts science and reality, there is an even bigger factor here: is it effective?
Back in 2008, the Miami Herald ran a report comparing the total number of dog bites in Miami-Dade vs neighboring Broward County. In 2007, Miami tallied 992 dog bites. In the same year, Broward county, 616. So inthe same year, even while controlling or the differences in population betweent the two counties, Miami Dade had significantly more dog bites than their neighborhing county. While "pit bull" numbers were lower in the Miami Dade report (because they had been banned for 20 years at that point), "terriers", "boxers", "mixed breeds", Labrador Retrievers, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, and American Bulldogs were either nonexistent in Broward's tally or had nearly double the number of recorded bites.
So public safety is not better in Miami Dade with their ban than their neighboring county without a ban.
Meanwhile, a year ago, a Miami Circuit Court judge ruled that the city's law violated due process -- because of the subjective nature of determining which dogs were "pit bulls", and thus banned under the law, and also the biases of the officers involved.
So the law was written as a form of panic policy-making, for illogical and incorrect reasons that are actually disproven by actual science, that hasn't been successful in making Miami-Dade residents safer and violates the due process of the citizens of Miami Dade.
THIS is why the state legislature needs to change the law.
So how can you help?
No matter where you live, go sign this petition. Show support to legislators for pulling the repeal out of committee and hearing it, and voting to pass it this week.
If you are a Florida Resident, Best Friends has set up an excellent form to help you send a letter to your state Representative or Senator. Go Here, fill it out, personalize it, and send. If you have a personal relationship with one of your representatives, call them, meet with them, talk to them, and explain to them the importance of repealing the Miami-Dade's breed ban.