Pit Bull Ban Could Go to a County Vote, Undercutting Tally Move To Kill It

​A Tallahassee proposal to force Miami-Dade to end its 23-year ban on pit bulls took a major hit last night when a group of county commissioners supported giving Dade voters a say in whether to keep the prohibition. The House bill's sponsor said he'd withdraw his legislation if the ban went to a county-wide vote.

The county's action, led by vocal ban supporter Jose "Pepe" Diaz, left pit bull advocates like Dahlia Canes fuming. "For 23 years, the government and the media in Miami have taught people to hate and fear anything involving a pit bull," Canes tells Riptide. "How do you suppose they'll vote?"

Last night's vote came in the commission's public safety committee, where Diaz framed the bills working their way through the Florida House and Senate as a threat to Miami-Dade's home rule.

"We cannot allow the armor to take kinks in it," Diaz told commissioners.

Despite opposition from Sally Heyman and Lynda Bell -- who pointed out, reasonably, that advocates went to Tallahassee after getting a cold reception in County Hall for decades -- the committee gave initial approval to a ballot question.

Canes says Diaz carefully crafted the move to undercut her group's work in the capital and is now applying hard political pressure to freshman Rep. Carlos Trujillo -- the proposed law's sponsor -- to back down.

"It's a bunch of motherfucking crap," she says of Diaz's arguments that Trujillo's bill would hurt Dade's political independence. "He knows the kind of money we'd have to spend on public education before a ballot down here. We'd get slaughtered."

Dade's pit bull ban, enacted after a young girl was disfigured by a dog in 1989, was among the first in the nation to target an entire breed. Today, everyone from the Humane Society to the American Veterinary Medical Association oppose it because it leads to hundreds of dogs simply suspected of being pits killed in county shelters every year.

Their message picked up steam this year thanks in part to the Miami Marlins new ace, Mark Buehrle, a pit bull owner who has spoken out against the ban.

Canes says her group will try to convince Trujillo not to withdraw his bill. The County Commission will consider Diaz's proposal at its next full meeting.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes. Tim Elfrink writes about South Florida crime, politics and insanity @timelfrinkmia.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink