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Local council favours repeal of Pit Bull ban

A TASK FORCE charged last year with evaluating the effectiveness of an American County Council’s ban on Pit Bull-type dogs told the Prince George County Council last week that the law should be repealed.

Some of the reasons listed in the Vicious Animal Task Force's 300- page report for repealing the 7-year-old Breed Specific ban are:

* The law is too difficult to enforce.
* The ban doesn't make owners responsible for vicious pit bull behaviour.
* The ban takes good pit bulls away from responsible owners while irresponsible pit bull owners go underground and are not caught.
* Other breeds have higher numbers of bites than pit bulls.
* The ban creates a backlog of cases for the Animal Control Commission.
* If the county's vicious animal laws were properly enforced, a pit bull ban wouldn't be necessary.

The task force is made up of representatives from eight county government departments, the Maryland Dog Federation and the Prince George's County Municipal Association.

The county Health Department representative is the only member noted in the report as not supporting a repeal of the ban. That representative was concerned about the severity of pit-bull bites compared to those of other dogs, the report says.

Task force representatives from the county Police Department and Animal Control Commission support repealing the ban.

Robert Williams, chair of the task force and a County Council aide, said it's important to note how much the county spends on enforcing the pit bull ban.

After pit bulls are confiscated, they are held on average for 30 days to allow the owner an appeals process. The cost of housing them for that period is $540, according to the report.
Eighty percent of the confiscated dogs are euthanased.

In 2001 the county confiscated 2,031 ‘pit bulls’ (a figure which included several crossbreeds or pit bull ‘types’) and kept them for 9,142 boarding days. In 2002, 1,724 pit bulls were confiscated, for 14,635 boarding days. For those two years, it cost the county approximately $560,000 in expenses.

The report also noted that that figure would be higher if manpower and overtime were included. In 2002, the number of dos seized had dropped to 1,724.

The task force suggested that the county implement educational programmes that promote responsible pet care and licensing information.

The task force said the county should also adopt legislation created by the Metropolitan Council of Governments. The COG legislation omits the "dangerous dog" category from its animal laws and replaces it with "potentially dangerous."

The naming of pit bulls in the vicious animal legislation should be omitted because the county already has effective policy regarding dangerous dogs, the report said.

Mr Williams said the report has been given to the County Council's Health, Education and Human Services Committee, which will meet in the fall to discuss it.

The committee will then make a recommendation to the entire County Council.