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Demonizing pit bulls doesn't make communities safer

I spent last Tuesday at the Maryland Senate listening to a variety of people talk about "pit bulls" and the Maryland Court of Appeals' ruling in Tracey vs. Solesky ("Parents of Towson pit bull attack victim testify in Annapolis," June 19).

During the proceedings. Mr. Solesky made it a point to say several times that he felt that the animal advocates were minimizing his feelings by attending the hearing. After leaving the committee meeting, his comment stayed with me.

As a dog owner and a parent, my heart goes out to the Solesky family. I cannot imagine what the Soleskys have been through. Yet although it seems that we are on opposite sides of this debate, Mr. Solesky and I both want the same thing: Safer communities.

Singling out one breed of dog, however, does not help make the community safer. Almost 90 percent of all dog bites are based on one of two factors: Either the dog is unaltered, or it has been tethered (tied up).

If we really wanted to make communities safer, we should focus on these two factors to reduce overall dog bites. To put strict liability on pit bulls does not deal with fact that there are many different breeds that bite.

According the National Canine Research Council, there were 33 cases of dog-related fatalities last year. Of these, only two cases involved pit bulls. The rest were Rottweiler (3), German Shepherd (1), Husky (1), American Bulldog (1), Wolf mix (1), Boxer (1), and unknown origin (21).

It's easy to have a knee jerk reaction for a quick fix. What is harder is to look at the root cause of a problem and address it.

My hope is that the "pit bull" task force will realize that just because a dog looks like a "pit bull" does not mean it is inherently dangerous, and that the panel will look instead to spay/neuter and anti-tethering laws that apply equally to all dogs.

Amanda Fitzgerald, Baltimore

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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