Yesterday, voters in Miami-Dade County went to the polls to determine whether or not they would keep the county's 23 year old ban on pit bulls.
And overwhelmingly, voters voted to keep the ban with 63.2% voting to keep the ban, and 36.8% voting for a repeal.
The results are not terribly surprising.
For more than two decades, citizens in Miami have been told by their county government that pit bulls were inherently dangerous. They're, not, but that's what people have been told by way of the 23 year old law.
The ban has also prevented most in the city from adopting pit bulls, meaning there are fewer advocates in Miami than in other places, and, fewer opportunities for common citizens to meet pit bulls and thus realize they are not the deamons often portrayed by the media.
Meanwhile, early polling showed that this was a major up-hill battle for advocates, and several larger national animal welfare groups opted NOT to pay for advertising to help push the ballot initiative because they felt the money would be better spent on the next round of lobbying.
This left advocates in Miami about 3 months, and minimal cash on hand, to re-educate an entire population about pit bulls and ended up coming up way short.
It would be pretty easy to get down about the vote. It was a loss -- and a win would have sent huge waives across the nation and would have ended the breed ban in one of the most high profile areas left in this country.
However, the detailed voter count tells maybe a more optimistic story.
Based on the numbers, Miami had a fairly large voter turnout by August election standards -- with a full 20% of the 1.2 million voters casting votes. However, this is where it gets a bit interesting.
Of those 248,496 voters, only 42% cast their votes yesterday on voting day (only 8% of total registered voters). The remaing 58.6% cast them either during the early voting (14%) or absentee (34%).
The voting split was pretty remarkable.
Of those that voted absentee (and were thus were largely unaffected by late educational pushes and editorials touting the need to repeal the ban), only 31% voted to repeal the breed ban. I should also note that concerns over the absentee voting system has led to many allegations of voter fraud in these early ballots.
Of those who voted early (again, less impacted by the educational efforts), 36% voted to repeal the ban.
Of those who went to the polls, a full 41% voted to repeal the ban.
In other words, when people are provided educational information about the ordinance, about pit bulls and realize there is no professional support for breed bans, they become more likely to vote in favor of the dogs.
This is some positive news (and also not terribly surprising).
As we continue to educate people about the dogs, we'll continue to make progress in this regard. And people seem to be very open to the educational opportunity and it can, and does, impact public perception.
This is all why the support for breed bans is diminishing in favor of more effective, enforceable and common-sensical laws targeting dangerous dogs based on their behavior, not their looks.
So it's a tough loss -- but one that I think gives us a good measure of the work to be done. The groups in Miami plan to continue fighting through the traditional measures of working through the city council and the state legislature and hopefully more progress will be made in the not-too-distant future.