Thursday, June 6, 2013

Florida Hell Week

Revised: June 6, 2013; 17:05 GMT
Revised: June 10, 2013; 16:25 GMT
Revised: June 15, 2013; 17:44 GMT

The Orlando Sentinel recently offered quest column space to two leading figures on the contentious issue of pit bulls. Writing on behalf of pit bulls and against Breed Specific Regulations (BSL) was Donald Cleary* of the National Canine Research Council (NCRC).  Writing on behalf of the victims of pit bull attacks and advocating for common-sense public safety regulations was Colleen Lynn, founder of Dogsbite.

The guest columns were published on May 24th, and came on the heels of a 72-hour period which witnessed a series of pit bull attacks across Florida. Among the recent attacks in Florida are the five listed below.

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Hell Week

May 24, 2013; Holly Hill (Volusia County) FL
2 Pit Bulls Attack 3 Men Within 2 Hours in Separate Florida Incidents
   4:00 a.m. Billy Boles, age 42; near State Avenue and Walker Street
   5:20 a.m. Anthony Lewis, age 44; Flomich Street and toward State Avenue
   5:30 a.m. Frank Andrsano, age 69
Michael Berkert [the owner of the dog] said the dog has never been aggressive and he and his twin brother hope to get their pet back.

May 23, 2013; Geneva (Seminole County) FL
Pit bull mix attacks, injures 89-year-old woman
Seminole County Fire Rescue officials said Betty Meitzler suffered severe bite wounds to her skull, arm, legs and neck, adding that she suffered "massive tissue loss." She was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center in serious condition. Last month, the same dog attacked Ms. Meitzler's daughter. The dog was impounded by the county after the initial attack, then released back to its owner prior to the attack on the elder Ms Meitzler.

May 22, 2013; Hialeah (Miami-Dade County) FL
Bloody Scene After pit bull Attacks Hialeah Man's Cat
Luciano Molina forced to kill pit bull with kitchen knife inside his own home.

Recently in Florida:

July 3, Dania Beach (Broward County) FL
Pit bull attacks 13-month-old baby

June 20, St Petersburg (Pinellas County) FL
Dogs attack 4-year-old girl and her father
Faucette told police he ran into the bedroom and found his daughter bleeding from the face. When he grabbed her, the dogs attacked him.

June 15, Holiday (Pasco County) FL
Pit bull attacks 10-month old infant in Holiday, FL
. . . they found the dog biting the baby on the head and shoulder.

May 5th, 2013; Bunnell (Flagler County) FL
5 Pit Bulls Maul Florida Mother
Sheriff's deputies say Brandi Bookamer suffered "heavy wounds" and was "barely moving" when emergency responders arrived. She was first taken by ambulance to a local hospital and later airlifted to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach for treatment. The owners of the dogs were located in the neighborhood and Flagler County Animal Control impounded the dogs, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Flagler County Sheriff's Lt. Bob Weber confirmed the dogs were pit bulls.

April 28, Bradenton (Manatee County) FL
6-Year-Old Life-flighted Following Pit Bull Attack
According to the police report, the boy's stepmother was doing laundry on the back porch of a house located at 1104 36th Ave. W. when she walked into the kitchen and saw the dog biting the young victim.

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SRUV will dispute only one of Mr Cleary's arguments: his main one that BSL is not working. Over 500 municipalities protect their cities with some form of BSL, which might include mandated spay/neutering, microchipping, muzzling in public, or in its most extreme form: outright bans. Denver, Colorado and Miami-Dade County both passed ordinances restricting pit bulls in 1989; neither city has experienced a pit bull fatality since their bans took effect. During the same period 18 people were killed by pit bulls elsewhere in Florida and over 250 humans were killed by pit bulls in the US. What further proof is required to prove that BSL is effective?

Pit bull advocates often mention that BSL will cause the mass slaughter of pit bulls. Denver is among the U.S. cities with the fewest pit bulls impounded and killed per 1,000 human residents; Miami-Dade ranks second only to Denver. New York City and San Francisco, both of which also have variations of BSL, rank third and fourth among major U.S. cities for the lowest pit bull euthanasia rates. **

Mr Cleary offers numerous arguments in his column, many of which are irrelevant or misleading. He mentions the ban of German Shepherds (GSDs) into Australia in 1929, which he derides as heavy-handed government imposed BSL. Mr Cleary neglects to mention the circumstances under which the import ban was imposed. Australia was a sheep raising country then as it is now, and the flocks suffered heavy depredations by dingos. Farmers were concerned that GSD's would also become predators.  GSDs were very different from the wonderful dogs we know today, and were known as Alsatian Wolf Dogs or Wolfhounds. The Western Australia Pastoralists and Graziers Society and other agricultural groups petitioned for the import ban, believing it was necessary to protect their livestock.

The great failing of Mr Cleary's argument is that he fails to respond to the Florida pit bull attacks, or indeed to the evidence of disproportionate pit bull attacks across the country, and instead offers platitudes about the implementation of responsible pet-ownership models. Until advocates of fighting breeds seriously address the growing number of pit bull attacks on humans, livestock, and on our more vulnerable animal companions, without resorting to banalities about responsible or irresponsible owners, their arguments against BSL will not be credible.

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Related Posts:
* By Donald Cleary, By Donald Cleary II

** The information on euthanasia rates is from Pit bulls and Political Recklessness, by Merritt Clifton.

Orlando Sentinel Forum on Pit Bulls
The Front Burner: Should pit bulls be banned?
   Introduction by Orlando Sentinel Editorial writer Darryl E. Owens
   Orlando Sentinel, May 24, 2013
BSL: Not new and not working, By Donald Cleary, Guest columnist
  Orlando Sentinel, May 24, 2013
Banning pit bulls saves lives and protects the innocent, By Colleen Lynn, Guest Columnist
   Orlando Sentinel, May 24, 2013

Statistics in SRUV are from the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, published by Animal People. To view or download the current PDF click here. This page may also include information from Dogsbite and Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Other Reading:
The History of the German Shepherd Dog in Australia
Outcry over proposed pit bull ban leads Broward commissioner to withdraw proposal
   Sun-Sentinel, February 26, 2013

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks