Pit Bulls Could Be Restricted in Other Florida Counties If New Bill Passes

Miami-Dade outlawed pit bulls in 1989, a year before the Florida Legislature passed a law banning all breed-specific dog laws. Our ordinance was allowed to stand, but 20 years later, the legislature might make it possible for other Florida counties to place restrictions on certain breeds as long as there are no full-out bans.

The bill, unsurprisingly, is aimed at pit bulls. Last year, 45 percent of dog bite-related human fatalities involved pit bulls, but supporters say this shouldn't prevent responsible owners from raising the breed.

Though other counties could not ban pit bulls, they could pass laws that would require dogs to be muzzled in public and owners to buy insurance or take dog ownership classes.

"We are discriminating against the good owners and the good dogs," Laura Bevan, director the Eastern Regional Office of the Humane Society of the United States, said to the Senate's Community Affairs Committee.

"I don't think we should outlaw specific breeds, but it doesn't make any sense to force our local governments to treat Chihuahuas the same as a pit bull," said Sen. Thad Altman, who supports the bill.

The bill passed the committee 9-2 but still has to pass two more Senate committees before it's taken up by the full body. Then it must pass the House.

Miami-Dade's pit bull ban is being challenged in court. Last May, New Times caught up with Dahlia Canes, who's working to overturn the ban.

"We've gone the political route. We talked to every member on the commission, we went to hearings, and they all said it's political suicide to overturn the ban," Canes says. "So we're suing."

And they just might win. An Ohio appeals court struck down a Toledo law in 2007 -- before the state's supreme court reversed the verdict.

"It's a smart approach," says Humane Society spokesman Goldfarb.

Pizano, who's charged with enforcing the ban, says it's up to politicians to decide whether the law makes sense. But she allows that "it's devastating for our staff to euthanize any animal." Since Pizano took over three years ago, her staff has had to kill more than 1,800 pit bulls.

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