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.
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.