Public may vote on Miami pit bull ordinance

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  March 2012:

Public may vote on Miami pit bull ordinance

MIAMI,  Florida–The Miami-Dade County public safety and health care administration committee on February 14,  2012 recommended to the county commission that voters should be asked on the August 2012 county ballot whether a 23-year-old ban on possession of pit bulls should be repealed.  This would apparently be the first time anywhere for a pit bull ban to be put before voters.

Long-smouldering opposition to the Miami-Dade ordinance caught fire in December 2011,  after the Miami Marlins signed pitcher Mark Buehrle,  a Best Friends Animal Society celebrity spokesperson, to a four-year contract for $58 million.  Buehrle,  who has a pit bull,  howled to media that the ordinance obliges him to live in neighboring Broward County.

Miami Republican state representative Carlos Trujillo in January 2012 introduced a bill to overturn the Miami-Dade ordinance. Trujillo “indicated from Tallahassee that he would stop pushing his bill if commissioners follow through on putting the pit-bull ban to voters,”  the Miami Herald reported.

“I think it’s only fair that the people of Dade County decide,”  Trujillo told the Miami Herald.

Pit bull advocates expressed confidence that the ordinance would be repealed,  but at least 10 newspaper public opinion surveys conducted in the U.S. since 2005 have shown respondents favoring restrictions on possession of pit bulls.  The majorities have ranged from 50% to 69%,  with the average at 59% and the median at 63%.

Miami-Dade enacted the pit bull ordinance,  imposing a fine of up to $500 for keeping a pit bull,  in 1989,  soon after a disfiguring attack on an eight-year-old girl,  and just ahead of the 1990 passage of a state law prohibiting new breed-specific legislation,  which exempted Miami.

Calls for the Miami ordinance began in 1945,  after Miami resident Doretta Zinke,  39,  was killed during an evening walk by nine pit bull terriers kept by Joe Munn,  43,  of Hialeah.  Pit bulls had already killed more people in the U.S. than all other breeds combined,  according to archival research by Dogsbite.com,  but Zinke was the first victim whose death drew national notice.   Twenty-six pit bulls,  some implicated in previous attacks on humans,  were impounded from Munn and killed,  despite hundreds of calls of protest from pit bull advocates to the Humane Society of Greater Miami, which then held the Miami animal control contract.  Munn served one year of a five-year prison sentence for manslaughter.  Back in Miami, Munn acquired more pit bulls,  two of whom in 1955 mauled Harry Smalley,  73,  after attacking Smalley’s dog.

ANIMAL PEOPLE found in 2009 that Miami-Dade County ranked second only to Denver among major U.S. cities in fewest pit bulls impounded and killed per 1,000 human residents.  New York City and San Francisco ranked third and fourth.  Denver has a limited restriction on possession of pit bulls;  San Francisco requires that pit bulls be neutered.
In the three fiscal years before the San Francisco ordinance took effect in 2006,  the city Department of Animal Care & Control impounded 1,891 pit bulls,  210 of them for biting,  and killed 1,129 pit bulls.  In the three most recent fiscal years,  San Francisco impounded 956 pit bulls,  39 for biting,  and killed 873–declines of 50%,  81%,  and 26%,  respectively.

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