Veterinarians for pit bull parity: Miami-Dade votes today to repeal the ban...or not

Today is voting day here in Miami-Dade County. But this time it’s not just the usual suspects vying for seats in their race’s primaries. For the first time in 23 years, Miami-Dade’s citizens will have a chance to vote...

... on whether to repeal a commissioner-imposed, countywide ban on pit bulls.

The law first went into effect after a seven year-old girl was mauled by a pit bull. At the time, fighting pits was a popular pastime among kids and creeps of a certain demographic. Though laws against dog fighting  were already on the books at the time, they were toothless things, hence the dim light bulb approach to the problem of dog on human violence.

Lately, however, cooler heads have prevailed and those of us who know that banning pits is the product of fear mongering and mob mentality recruitment for political expediency have gained some purchase on this issue. The result of our efforts is today’s referendum on the issue.

Though my longtime devotion to the issue has been significant, my recent contribution to the cause has been less than I’d hoped, but life intervenes sometimes and time pressures in other directions often win out. I did, however, manage to eke in a little something in my weekly Miami Herald column this past weekend. And because it’s not yet online for causes unknown, I’ve decided to make the unedited version available for your consumption here:

Q: There are so many emotional issues swirling around Miami-Dade’s upcoming vote on repealing the pit bull ban that it’s hard to know whether we’re being given the right information or not. I’ve heard arguments from both sides but never from someone who has real experience and scientific insight: a veterinarian. What do veterinarians have to say on how we should vote?

A: While I would never presume to tell you how you should vote, I will happily digest some science on the subject, offer my colleagues’ official opinions, and impart my own at the end.

First, the epidemiological view:

In an exhaustive report on dog bite prevention issued this past April, the American Veterinary Medical Association offered this statement on the subject:  “Owners of pit bull-type dogs deal with a strong breed stigma, however controlled studies have not identified this breed group as disproportionately dangerous.”

Human epidemiological authorities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree, offering this statement via its media office: “There is currently no accurate way to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.”

Then there’s the politics:

The AVMA’s take is that, “dog bites are preventable through training and responsible pet ownership. Unfortunately, many attempts to control dog aggression have been misguided and ineffective, including breed-specific legislation.”

In other words, not only does the leading veterinary organization in the country conclude there’s no science to support breed bans, it actively opposes them for their shortsighted and ultimately counterproductive approach to dealing with dog aggression.

Local vets agree. In an August 3rd letter to the editor here in The Herald, Dr. Marc Kramer offered our South Florida Veterinary Medical Association’s position: It denounces the ban as both costly and intrusive, in addition to having been proven ineffective in reducing per capita dog on human violence of any kind.

My take?

Pet owners are used to looking to veterinarians for all kinds of sound scientific thinking on the subject of pet health and safety, but when it comes to something as emotional as a maimed child, the voice of reason gets drowned out by a flurry of ill-respected statistics and the fever pitch of mob-minded hysteria.

Which is kind of sad seeing as veterinarians are educated not just in animal medicine, but to further public health, too. In other words, it’s my personal opinion that you should vote like your veterinarian likely will: Vote YES to repeal the ban.


I was pretty happy with the response I received to this column. Did I convince you?


Today's pic: My 2010 foster dog, Pinky, would've been my permanent running partner but for the pit bull ban.