Pit bull legislation sparks outrage, concern

6:13 PM, Dec 23, 2011   |    comments
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LARGO, Fla. -- For Snookie the pit bull mix, her restlessness is a far cry from last month, when she was found malnourished in Gulfport. Her ears had been cut off.

"She's healing really well," says Donna Bainter, director of Behavior and Training at SPCA Tampa Bay. "She was obviously not cared for very well and, regardless, she's a stable, great dog."

So stable that the 7-month-old is already up for adoption. A $600 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever harmed Snookie, plus a donor is adding $600 to that reward. 

But her breed faces a stigma. Many who look to adopt a pet at SPCA Tampa Bay say they'll take home any breed except a pit bull. Some upcoming legislation aims to crack down on pit bulls and has sparked outrage across the country, as shown in an online petition. For example, a bill in New Mexico proposes calling all pit bulls dangerous animals. Their owners would have to muzzle them in public and take out a $100,000 liability insurance policy.

"The prejudice that's implied there is unspeakable in this day and age. To think that all dogs, regardless of breed, would be deemed dangerous is dangerous in itself," Bainter says.

Some of the perceived danger starts with dog attacks. In August, two dogs, one a pit bull mix, attacked a man in Zephyrhills as he picked up his morning newspaper. It turns out that the dogs escaped multiple times through a hole in the fence. The owner was charged with culpable negligence.

"There are a lot of injuries out in our community by dogs that are living in substandard situations and those are the ones that are dangerous - living isolated in backyards, living on chains," Bainter says.

Instead of branding all pit bulls dangerous, advocates say the focus should be on anti-tethering laws.

"When you're tying a dog outside, that's considered tethering. They are confined to just a certain area," Bainter says. "They're usually left there day and night."

In Florida, recently filed legislation would allow local governments to create more stringent regulations for owners of dogs that are deemed dangerous. However, the regulations can not discriminate based on a specific breed.

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