After a reaction by Pit Bull owners to a proposed breed ban in Broward County, Florida, which was termed “mass hysteria” by a local official, a revised proposal by Broward County’s Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief to merely restrict residents from adding to the number of Pit Bulls currently owned was withdrawn at the Commission’s regular meeting on Tuesday.
Two other proposals, one of which carries a $500 fine for training dogs to fight and another that imposes a $300 fine for failing to vaccinate or license dogs, were passed.
Sharief’s office greeted the withdrawal with optimism, according to the New Times Broward/Palm Beach blog. "It's a positive step,” said her spokesperson, “and this is a victory for those who want tougher penalties for those who teach dogs to fight. This is a major victory for BrowardCounty."
SHAREIF’S ORIGINAL PROPOSAL
Commissioner Sharief’s original proposal, which engendered a flood of angry e-mails to the entire Commission, had sought to make it illegal to “own and keep American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers or any other dog that substantially conforms to any of these ‘pit bull’ breed characteristics…” It also sought support for the “addition to the state legislative program imposing a state fine for acquiring or keeping these specific animals.”
Sharief expressed surprise and frustration at the sudden onslaught of opposition to her proposal. According to the Broward/Palm Beach blog, she said she's been talking about the need for this type of legislation "for years" and has conducted numerous meetings to gain local support and advice. "And the people sending us these email chains -- where were they when we were asking for support?"
"People are frightened," Michele Lazarow, HallandaleBeach city commissioner, said. "And they're angry. They're seeing what has happened in Miami-Dade County, and they're frightened that it could happen here."
Lazarow’s comment referred to the fact that Sharief’s first proposal replicated the wording of the long-standing Miami-Dade Pit Bull ban which was grandfathered in when the Florida Legislature passed language that prohibited banning a specific breed (BSL).
The Miami-Dade Pit Bull ban was overwhelmingly reaffirmed by voters in November 2012, despite a vigorous campaign by Pit Bull advocates to overturn it.
SHAREIF’S REVISED PROPOSAL
The panic that ensued after she proposed a total ban caused Vice Mayor Sharief to revise the wording to clarify that her intention was to stop the proliferation of a breed that is not only dangerous to other animals and humans, but which is also widely neglected, abused and exploited for dog fighting. "We just don't want anyone to have additional pit bulls," she said.
Sharief stated that she still believes Pit Bulls are dangerous, and she refuted the claim that there is “scientific research” that has found Pit Bulls to be less aggressive, on average, than other breeds.
"I disagree with that science," she said. "We've done considerable research on this, and we've found [pit bulls] have a more aggressive nature. It's due to the fact that they have a tendency to kill small things. Pit bulls don't just go after something to harm it; they go after it to kill it.”
She encouraged impassioned owners and detractors to come to attend the commission meeting. "Maybe if they come," she said, "they can help us craft some type of rule to help stop the pit bulls from fighting in our area and to stop the biting."
PIT BULL BAN NOT PASSED, BUT NOT DEAD
On Tuesday, the Commission meeting room was filled. Many advocates and Pit Bull owners were accompanied by their dogs. “These are our children,” said Pit Bull owner Katie Rhoades, “I think you should punish the owners for mistreating them and abusing them and training them to do what they do.”
Animal activist Dahlia Canes told the Commission, “You have a spay neuter problem, an animal abuse problem, a dog fighting problem and an irresponsible ownership problem, but you do not have a pit bull problem!”
Dozens of other people lined up to argue that it’s dog owners, not the dogs, who are to blame for bad behavior.
Commissioner Barbara Sharief responded, “A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 94% of the attacks on children by pit bulls were unprovoked.”
The Commission passed the following new law to increase the current fine for teaching a dog to fight to $500 and increase the fine to $300 for people who do not vaccinate or license their dogs:
“B. MOTION TO DIRECT County Attorney’s office to draft an amendment to the Broward County Animal Care & Regulation Ordinance (Chapter 4); revising and expanding “fighting dogs” definitions to include teaching a dog to fight; imposing a fine of $500 for “teaching” a dog to fight; adjusting the fine for “fighting dogs” from a sliding scale to a standard $500 per occurrence; adjusting the fine for non-vaccinated dogs from a sliding scale to a standard $300 per occurrence; adjusting the fine for non-licensed dogs from a sliding scale to a standard $300 per occurrence.”
The proposal to ban pit bulls is not dead. Commissioner Sharief said she will try to re-work it and bring it back before the commission, according to the Sun Sentinel.
The City of Hollywood had also indicated that it is prepared to ask the State for permission to ban pit bulls.