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Pit Bull Ban and Common Sense Prevail in South Florida Referendum

| August 16, 2012

pit bull ban in miami date

Not welcome in Miami. (This Year’s Love/Flickr)

By Steven Kurlander

In overwhelming fashion, Miami-Dade voters decided Tuesday to continue to ban pit bulls from the county.

The results show common sense still rules strong.

The campaign over pit bulls generated as much raw passion as any race or referendum out there, yet voters reaffirmed the 23-year-old ban by a wide margin: 63-37 percent.

This, despite the well-publicized efforts of Marlins pitcher Mark Buehrle and his wife, Jamie, avid pit bull owners who because of the ban, say they were forced to move to Broward County when he was traded last year to Miami.

The ban has always made sense. In a crowded metropolitan area like Miami, the known risks to citizens from this breed of dog — and from irresponsible owners — outweigh the rights of responsible owners and the costs of enforcing the ban.

florida voices columnists flaglerlive

Still, the arguments against the ban were strong. Joined by many veterinarians and animal-rights advocates in South Florida, the Buehrles argued that banning a specific breed was illogical and punitive to loving and responsible pit-bull owners who keep their dogs under leash.

Dr. Marc Kramer of the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association weighed in, stating in a letter to the editor in the Miami Herald that the ban was not only “costly and intrusive, but has proven ineffective in reducing per capita dog-on-human violence.”

Nevertheless, the passion shown by pit-bull advocates grew crazy and irrational on Miami airwaves and in publications. When I wrote a column in support of the ban in Florida Voices in February, I was attacked — and threatened — by some pit bull advocates, who called me bigoted, cruel and every other name in the book. It made me think twice about writing this piece.

Yet, on the other side, victims of pit bull attacks argued with just as much passion that the breed has specific tendencies toward biting people.

“I think that if I were bit by a poodle, I wouldn’t have had to have eight major reconstructive plastic surgeries,” said Melissa Moreira, whose mauling as a child prompted the ban and who continues to advocate for it as an adult.

Many others continue to be frustrated by owners who breed pit bulls to fight or do not take proper care of their dogs.

The measure to ban the ban was placed on the Miami-Dade Commission after the Florida Legislature this year refused to overturn an exemption that allows the county to impose it.

Despite Tuesday’s vote, the effort to overturn the pit bull ban will continue.  Jamie Buehrle said the vote “showed me that, not only do I need to continue to educate about the ‘pit bull type dog’ breed, but I also need to continue to stress the importance of responsible pet ownership.’’

While the ban is not perfect, arguments made by Buehrle and other advocates will continue to fall short as long as they fail to recognize that in certain urban clusters, certain dangerous animals, including pit bulls, continue to pose a significant risk to millions of people living in close proximity to one another.

Owning a pit bull, as well as other animals prone to instinctually act violently, is fine for a responsible owner on a farm or even in suburban or rural areas. But not in Miami. That’s basic common sense.

And a large majority of voters astutely recognized that rational fact.

Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly’s Kommentary, writes a weekly column for Fort Lauderdale’s Sun-Sentinel and is a South Florida communications strategist.

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39 Responses for “Pit Bull Ban and Common Sense Prevail in South Florida Referendum”

  1. Vickie Haer Hart says:

    So unfair….not common sense but lack of knowledge – sad.

    • HonestyHelps says:

      Not the least unfair when you consider that pit bulls are killing people at the rate of one person every 20 days. I would say that knowledge abound in this election and the people have spoke that they don’t want these mutant canines mauling and killing them and their beloved pets like they are doing everywhere else.

      • Blake says:

        Where did you get that statistic from? It sounds pretty inaccurate.

      • christine bailey says:

        I live in the city of Philadelphia where pit bulls are the most popular dog to own as a pet. I own a pit bull and an american cocker spaniel, and they are best friends. We are doing just fine…please do not speak for us.

      • Krispin says:

        This is actually not true. In all truth you are 60 times more likely to get killed by a palm tree than a pit bull. 150 people are killed each year by coconuts. If pit bulls were killing 1 person every 20 days that would mean only about 12 people would die from this every year. That fact is very biased and if you want more information on this visit:
        Dogs are only aggressive if they feel threatened, or were raised in a bad environment. So don’t speak about pit bulls if you don’t know what you are talking about.

        [Correction: The commenter here is referring to an old myth about coconuts that has been floating around the Internet for years, but that has zero basis in fact, and is entirely baseless. The opinion about pit bulls may be valid. The reference to coconuts is not. Please verify your facts when posting. Also, this commenter used different names to post in this thread, to give the impression of greater support for his or her point of view. Please do not abuse the comment section: one handle only. For details, see here.–FL]

  2. Kim Mueller Kostka says:

    absolutely ridiculous and unfounded. why do grown adults let fear control what decisions they make?

  3. Jon Hardison says:

    O…M…G! Really? This conversation is no different than the ones being had in other articles that ‘imply’ that the color of one’s skin has an impact on the likelihood they’ll commit a crime. Two Pits helped raise my boys. Two pits have been members of my family for years. The super-dog argument was shot down years ago. Strong jaws? Sure. Super locking jaws? NO! There is no locking mechanism in a pit’s jaw. These dogs have a long history of human service. The first Fire Dogs, bating everything from bulls to lions… They are happiest satisfying us. It’s a fact!

    Look: Before it was Pits it was Dobermans, and before them is was Rottweilers, and before them is was Ridge-Backs, and before them is was German Shepherds, and the list goes on… The problem isn’t the dog. It’s the people. You kill all the dogs, they’ll get others. Educate people! Punish People! But don’t hurt the damn dogs!

    This illegal ban (cuz that’s what it is) simply reinforces the public’s fear making these dogs more valuable to those that shouldn’t have them, but does nothing to solve the problem of bad dog people. If you’re not solving that problem, you’re not solving anything. It’s that simple.

    Last thing: This article says that Pits are prone to human violence. This is total bullshit. No part of their breeding was ever for that purpose and its proven by a lot more than the actual numbers. It’s also proven by the fact that most of the handlers for illegal dog fighting rings are children as young as 8 years old. Shepherds, Akitas, Chows and many others NOT on Miami’s lists were created to be human aggressive.

    I love my dogs, and not just because they’re mine. Pits are amazing dogs that would give their lives for their people. It’s just the way they’re wired. I’m so, so sad that this ban still stands. That said, I understand the fear and don’t blame anyone for feeling that way. If I simply listened to the news and took everything at face value, I don’t think it would be possible for me to feel any other way. The difference is that I don’t. 8 times out of 10 when the news says “Pit Attack” it isn’t a pit. Most of the dogs being put down as pits in Miami aren’t pits. Pits are small (40 – 50lbs max), so when you hear that big story about the guy that almost got killed by a huge pit… It’s already crap. Even the similarly shaped giants like Presa Canarios and Dogo Argentino (Look it up. They’re not pits either.) aren’t prone to human aggression.

    It’s so much easier to be scared than it is to be smart. A lesson so many of us need to learn. I really hope we can figure out a way to deal with the people problem and stop both the excess breeding and abuse of pits and other animals. The dog at the top of this article is only scary because of the muzzle, which is a great example of the simple tactics used to vilify them and I think it’s a damn shame.

    Power to the Pooches! :-)

  4. Eileen G. Miller says:

    This is so not right….!! It’s the people who mistreat their dogs.

    • HonestyHelps says:

      Do you know what pits were designed to do? Do you know what hunting dogs were designed to do? And do you know what herding dogs were designed to do? Then if you deny that pits were bred to kill, then you are denying every purebred out there and the purpose of purebreds. If you don’t think genetics matter, you need to go talk to the thoroughbred horse community, they know it matters. Pits were designed for one thing and only one thing – to kill. And they are doing that unlike any breed in history.

  5. Lori Speis Pfeiffer says:

    It is a completely unenforceable tragedy. People are so completely ignorant. Look to the owners, not the breed. Thugs have done this to these dogs.

  6. Geezer says:

    I love all dogs and dog breeds. I never met a bad dog – but I’ve met many awful owners/masters.
    Sadly, a large chunk of Pit-bull owners are using these dogs as tools of intimidation. You know the kind.

    What happens is you have an intelligent, loyal breed of dog that unfairly gets labeled as “dangerous.”

    Here I’m throwing my two cents in, but not much to add after Jon Hardison’s excellent post.

    Jon Hardison would like to see the “people problem” solved, but I’m pessimistic.
    A lot of people just plain suck, and I can honestly tell you that these persons aren’t worthy
    of the loyal companionship that a pit can provide. They don’t appreciate the unconditional love that pits shower you with. What people do you know that become overjoyed like your dog when they greet you after a day’s work?

    There should be harsh penalties for people who are irresponsible dog owners, regardless of the breed. It’s just a damned shame that the dogs have to pay for their stupid humans.
    The stupid humans should pay out the nose with fines when their dogs get in trouble – maybe jail.
    I have a moron for a neighbor who insists on walking his Doberman without a leash, and have seen his dog go after other dogs on leashes (he wants to play) and has spooked many of his neighbors.
    He can use a hefty fine – the dipstick that he is….. Just wait until his dog gets torn up or shot by another dog walker. His poor dog will pay. Because of this and other dopes, I cannot walk my Mastiff and he’s limited to our fenced-in yard.

    I’ve had three pits in my life, all made it to old age without incident – all were people-friendly, and beloved members of my family. You’d think that they were good guard-dogs – nope, I had to guard THEM!
    I miss them dearly – they simply don’t live as long as I’d like.

    Let’s ban asshole owners instead of pit-bulls. (sorry for the ugly word – but I can’t think of a better term)

  7. question says:

    Very sad.
    Stupid, BAD, compensating for their own shortcomings,
    pit bull owners maligning a perfectly fabulous breed
    and ruining it for the GREAT pit bull owners & their families.

    Throw those BAD owners out of the County … not the dogs!

  8. Karen says:

    That is not “common sense” that is ignorance and discrimination. The writer of the article needs to educate himself.

  9. Shannon L says:

    Actually this is a very good article.Most people reason that we should “ban stupid owners” How do we go about that exactly?.Your pit bull may be very nice and well socialized and thats great however there are no rules in place to force people to be good owners,we can only suggest it. Arguing that pit bulls are not dangerous is silly.The dogs size and strength make it dangerous.In the wrong hands these types of dogs are lethal on a pretty regular basis. Personally I believe fighting breeds should be regulated to ensure they are safe for the public. But the advocates call that racism. Which is wrong.Dog breeds/type vary in size therefore they should be judged differently.An angry pit bull and an angry chihuahua do not pose the same threat to society. I dont hate pit bulls but I respect the raw power they have. You good owners have a lot to fear by keeping pit bulls unregulated. Your dog could be very sweet indeed but you dont get a say in how everyone else raises theirs.Your child could be steps away from you at a playground when a dog comes running up to her and I pray if that happens to you the dog running at you is not a pit bull with a crappy owner..

  10. Badarticle says:

    Poorly written discriminatory article. Why should I be surprised?

  11. Sara says:

    I WISH we had a ban here! Three times, with 3 different pitbulls I’ve had problems. And EVERY ONE of those were from homes that spayed/neutered, socialized, obedience trained, and treated there dogs exceptionally well. All 3 homes did every thing they were told to do in order to have a “safe” pitbull and yet all 3 of those dogs snapped at some point and killed or severally mauled someone or something. The last time I watched a “friendly, family dog” tear a horse to pieces literally! It was awful. Nobody could stop it cause nobody had a gun.

    I have had border collies for years. From the time they are small pups they have an instinct to herd. That’s what they are bred to do. You can train them all you want, but the instinct is still there. I don’t see how people think you can take a pitbull whose original breeding was for fighting and expect to train the instinct out. That doesn’t make sense.

    Two things in the article I disagree with. 1 I don’t think they are human aggressive. They don’t seem to care what they attack, the instinct to kill kicks in and it doesn’t seem two matter whether it’s a human or animal. 2 we don’t want pitbulls in the rural areas either!!! They kill people and animals here too!!

    • Jay Russel says:

      Sara cats kill animals all the time. My cats would always kill birds and bring them home. Should we ban them too??? You’re story is BS. They were not originally trained as fighting dogs. They were bred to protect their owners families. Rosevelt had a Pit in the White House and they were our countries Mascot during the WW era. A Siberian Huskey attacked my Pit at the dog park and he’s still got a scar from it. All the kids in my complex used to rough house w my Pit and he was super gentle and knew how to play with them instinctually because THAT is how they were originally bred. You have to teach them to be aggressive and are no more dangerous than any other dog 60lbs or more. You can teach any breed to be mean. My neighbor had two shitty little yappy muts that she had to have their teeth pulled because they bit her and anyone else they could. I got bit by my neighbors Border Collie when I was a kid. But I don’t think it makes your’s bad or that you shouldn’t have the right to own one….

  12. Rebf says:

    Hooray for the voters of Miami Dade who have shown with great conviction and numbers that they do not value a breed of dog over their children, neighbors’ and pets’ lives. Pit bulls earn their bad reputation on a daily basis and innocent people and pets pay the price for these malicious dogs on a daily basis as well. Now if we could just get the rest of the country to enact a pit bull ban we might rid our streets of this malignant scourge completely. Prevent the deed, ban the breed.

  13. Mindi says:

    I wish my county had this much common sense..if I had it my way, Pits would be banned everywhere. Anyone dumb enough to have them around their children should also be banned. ;)

  14. Stacey says:

    I agree and disagree with the ban. I can see the whole discrimination part of it, but at the same time, it is totally a safety issue. I think the Pit Bull should be under the “exotic animal’ label and not the dog label. Ownership of an exotic animal requires licenses and insurance, etc.. If it was better controlled, there would be less tragedy. The whole, “its the owners, not the dog” bit is the most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard. So lets punish the irresponsible dog owner after their Pit mauled my baby’s face. Sure. I am not saying they are all agressive, but when they bite, its the meanest dog bite you’ll ever get. There is a couple in my neighborhood that walk 2 pits with chains wrapped around their necks and a master lock holding it together. The chain is then wrapped around the mans waist. ????? One day as i was walking by their house, with my kids in a double stroller, the “irresponsible” owner had decided to let one of the dogs out to their backyard, which is not fenced in to go relieve himself. Well guess what happened next? Dog came darting at me. The man began yelling his name and the dog stopped at the end of the driveway. I’m sure he considers himself a responsible pit owner. Lets just say a complaint was made.

    A pits strength and power is dangerous. Ban pit bulls from Flagler County. Too many children and senior citizens and not enough homes with fences.

    • HonestyHelps says:

      Take a look at this list of pit bull attack articles just for Florida for a six month period of time. Then look at the country at this same link. Try to find another breed that has done this much damage.

      • Kristen says:

        This is biased information and the stats are incorrectly gathered. Usually by someone who does not like pitbulls or think the dog is a pitbull when it may even be another breed! There are MORE aggressive dogs out there. The German Sheperd, Rotweilers, Dobermins, Dalmations, Chows, Huskies, Wolf hybrids…. I could go on. Dog bites from EVERY breed should be tallied, nut just pitbulls!

  15. Dogfather says:

    Common sense prevails? You have got to be kidding.

  16. Magicone says:

    Pit Bulls are a good breed they can be very loving and good loving dogs; enter the human race. Dog fighting is a $ driven atrocity that is just part of south Florida. Sadly enough but true. I knew someone in Ft. Lauderdale who lost a lot of money training his Pit Bull to fight. He lost it all when his dog jumped out of the ring; the dog didn’t want to fight, but that is what he was taught. Humans will gamble over anything; cockfights, dog fights, hell they even fight Beta fish. Pit Bulls are a good breed but they need to be trained right or you could have disastrous results. Do not blame the breed it is the owners responsibility. Hell do you think Michael Vick was convicted of fighting Poodles?

  17. Magicone says:

    If anyone ever thinks that Pit Bulls will be banned in Palm Coast; that will never happen!! Palm Coast is the first city that I have ever lived in that charges $5 for each dog you own. This doesn’t seem right, but that is another income for the city; and they don’t have to call it a tax. I wonder how much they would charge me for my 55 gallon aquarium full of fish??

  18. Allie_ says:

    Stupid Americans… you are banning pit bulls, beacuse they’re dangerous, while you’re NOT banning guns, which cause more deaths and are more dangerous than dogs. Instead of fighting street gangs (causing REAL danger for people’s lives, killing nad hurting thousands of people), trying to solve problems with Cuban immigrants, you are fighting animals. This so ridiculous. Until that moment I thought that all people who say that Americans are the biggest idiots in the world are wrong, but now you proved me that they are RIGHT!

  19. D.J. Mac says:

    This is so unfair & totally biased against a breed that is not at fault for their idiot owners’ training or should I say lack thereof. Google the facts people, small dogs are known to bite far more than large dogs, but because of their size, are rarely reported.
    I have a 6 year old pitt, have owned pitts my whole life & I have never been bit because I was taught how to properly handle & train the breed. My beloved pitty named Kahlua for her brindle coat has never bit or attacked anything & is in fact my self-trained service dog being I was disabled in a car accident. I rescued her when she was 4 months old & her best friend (besides me of course) until he recently passed away from an unknown disease was a kitty named Lex. She plays gently with my guinea pig, my niece just turned one & lives with us & my pitty would never think of attacking her unless it was with kisses!!!!!!!! So America wise up & start making the idiot owners responsible instead of banning and killing an innocent, loving, & beautiful breed. Education is the ultimate solution, not this…. (
    Thank God I live in Duval county.

  20. Notoday says:

    That’s common ignorance that you think Pit Bulls are prone to act violently. I guess Italians are prone to be mobsters, Irish are prone to be drinkers, Asians are prone to be bad drivers and all black people are lazy! The most violent thing in Miami is people killing people with guns maybe they should have a gun ban and not allow any one to own guns and why stop there don’t allow people to own knives either. These dogs are great loving loyal pets. I don’t blame the people in Miami I blame the media for the negative focus it puts on this breed! You would have to kill me before you take my dog.


  21. Eli says:

    I worked animal control for quite some time in my state (Idaho). Over a 10 year period, we had 79 documented dog bites from Labrador Retrievers, 7 from pit bulls, and 10 from dachshunds. Labs and pits are the two most common larger breeds in the area. Only bites that broke the skin were reported. Labs bit a whole lot more than pits but yet people think pits are the problem. A study of pit owners showed they were more likely to be criminals. Despite worse environments, pits still bit less. It’s the OWNER, not the dog breed, that really matters. With a good owner, I’d trust my child around a pit much more than a lab (fear biters), a herding breed (ankle nippers) or small breeds like dachshunds (which bite a LOT more than bigger breeds, their bits just aren’t very dangerous).

  22. Common sense says:

    Since most violent crimes are committed by minorities in Miami-Dade, we should just ban them too right? Bring them to jail for five days, and if no one claims them then send them to the gas chamber? I bet that’d go a long way toward solving violent crime.

    Oh wait, criminals by definition don’t care about the laws so as much as you’d like to think waving a piece of paper around is going to stop all the bad things in the world, it won’t.

  23. joey says:

    if my friend wasn’t at the va hospital in Miami I would of never stepped foot in Miami/dade county because of the ban the people there are just ignorant about the pit bull breed im on my 2nd pit and they both get/got beat up by my Chihuahuas

  24. Cali says:

    It is sad that we live in a technology fueled society where information is constantly at our fingertips and yet so many people are happy to form opinions based not on facts but on hearsay, misinformation, and the slanted media who profit off of sensationalizing news…Thank you for puting out yet another incorrect story to continue the spread of this inaccurate information. Common sense? I find it interesting that all of the major veterinarian, animal welfare, and animal cruelty organizations oppose this breed ban…People that are actually trained and educated to be able to make an informed decision on whether this ban is warranted. Many people that are so quick to judge are those that have never had the pleasure of getting to know a bully breed. They only know what they see splashed across the newspaper or what their ill advised cousin tells them while having a beer on the back porch. People also need to realize that there is a huge difference between a dog being animal aggressive and a dog being human aggressive. It is not the same thing. Anyone who takes a few minutes out of their day to actually research the origin of the pit bull would find that they were specifically bred to not be human aggressive. This is not a trait that was bred into their breed or that they are born with. This is something that is created by irresponsible owners, poor socialization, and cruelty. Sure pit bulls are large and could cause damage but no more than any other dog their size. Labs, German shepards, and boxers could inflict. Pit bulls feel pain, they do not have jaws that lock, and they don’t have greater bite pressure than any other dog their size. In fact a recent study tested the bite pressure of the German Shepard, the rottie, and the pit bull and it was found that the Pitbull had the least amount of pressure when biting. The issue here is the owner. Plain and simple.

  25. Eric says:

    I am an OIF Veteran diagnosed with PTSD and have a Pit-bull as a valid service animal, he does his job when he is “working” and is part of our family and tolerates and loves my five year old and his service animal status make him exempt from breed restrictions. I put a service animal vest on him, even though I legally do not have to, but I try to to ease the minds of those who are ignorant towards Pit-bulls. My ferocious Pit-bull will lick you to death and does not like bubbles, but as with most animals or humans he will defend himself or his pack(family) if threatened.
    Animals and humans react to their environment and upbringing, yes some instinctively (both species) are violent, but what county or state has used “common sense” to ban humans?

  26. Someone says:

    They should just screen the owners before purchase and the dogs six months later (after improvement on behavior)

  27. Joseph Albanese says:

    Well i9f this Pit Bull is such a good thing then explain to me and everyone who love Pit Bulls why is it then in the 23 years this ban has been in place that dog attacks in the Miami area have not gone down but have gone up slowly every year since. Also anyone who really thinks Pit Bulls are such vicious animals come meet my 3 who have never as much as even growled at anyone my less attack. Born to kill? Hardly! I want to move to the Miami this is the one reason and only reason why have not. #IGNORANCEPREVAILINGINMIAMI

  28. Dog Whisperer says:

    Pitbulls are genetically programmed killers.

    They are Terminators, without remorse, born to bite

    The ones that don’t bite, are the aberrations.

    Besides they don’t bite, they attack till they kill the victim.
    Most dogs will bit and release.

    Pits don’t quit, till they are dead. Or YOU are.

    Ban Pit Bulls.

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