Boston, arguably the home town of the American Pit Bull, has had a "responsible Pit Bull" law, in effect since 2004.
It's worth reading the entire law as it has an impressive preamble, and it's clear this legislation was accepted in lieu of an outright ban.
Here is what the Boston law says:
- It defines the dogs both by name and description and includes crosses or mixes of the same. If Animal Control says you have a Pit Bull, you do unless you can show AKC or UKC registration paper "proving" otherwise, or unless you can get a note from a Massachusetts-licensed veterinarian saying the dog does not include the lineage of any of the named breeds.
- Your Pit Bull must be spayed or neutered unless a veterinarian says this procedure would endanger the life of the animal.
- Licensing fees for Pit Bulls are higher. The fee schedule for a regular dog is $17 for unspayed or unneutered dogs (with proof of current rabies vaccination), and $6 for spayed or neutered dogs (with proof of current rabies vaccination and proof of spay/neuter). For Pit Bulls and Pit Bull Mixes, however, the licensing fee is $50 and it's an annual license. There is also a requirement that you prove you own your own home or that your landlord has given you permission to have a Pit Bull or Pit Bull Mix where you live. In addition, as part of the registration process, you must provide a photo of your dog that is no older than 30 days and a photo of yourself that is also no older than 30 days. Finally, you must have proof of a spay or neuter and, (as for all dogs) proof of rabies vaccination. The one-year Pit Bull license is not transferable.
- No more than two Pit Bulls are allow per household. The only exception is puppies under 9 weeks.
- Dogs outside of the private property of the owner must be muzzled (basket muzzle) or in a secure enclosure (crate). This includes all locations -- public and private -- that are not owned by the owner.
- No one under the age of 18 can own a Pit Bull.
- Owners of Pit Bulls must have signage on their property that either says "Pit Bull Dog" or "Beware of Dog." The size, wording and placement of this sign is explicit.
- A dog cannot be sold or transferred except to an immediate family member, without the approval of the "dog officer" who shall transfer the registration.
- Animal control has to be notified within 14 days of a Pit Bull pregnancy, and within one week of the birth of a litter, or transfer or death of a dog.
- Some exceptions are made for show dogs transiting through the city.
This law was clearly meant to keep Pit Bulls in Boston, but to keep them out of the hands of casual pet owners, thugs, fools, kids, and people who are not very responsible.
In essence, Pit Bulls are treated for what they are: Large dogs that have a history of disproportionate carnage (for whatever reason).
Is this law over kill? Sure. Probably.
The dogs are being treated, in essence, as if they are not only guns, but as if they are very high-powered weapons.
Some may object, of course, but it's worth noting that most guns are also not used for harm, and that is especially true for high-powered weapons. Legal machine guns, for the record, are almost never used in a crime. Bazookas, pretty much never.
The spay-neuter section of the law may seem to be heavy-handed, but in a world in which thousands of wonderful Pit Bulls are being put down every day for no other reason than they are Pit Bulls, it's a reasonable question to ask whether we really need to bring any more Pit Bulls into the world, at least in Boston. How about if we take care of the Pit Bulls we already have?
Post your thoughts in the comments section.
I am especially interested in what special responsibilities Pit Bull owners are willing to accept for their dogs.
Do you think owning a Pit Bull is no different than owning a Chihuahua? A Boston Terrier? A Labrador Retriever?
Is size irrelevant?
Is breed history irrelevant?
Is the disproportionate number of fatal and serious mauling attacks by Pit Bulls irrelevant?
What restrictions are you willing to accept to avoid a ban on Pit Bulls in your city or town?
Or is this one more case, where "no prior restraint" or special licensing to avoid predictable harm is going to be the watchword?
Should society's position simply be that they can kill the dog and wash the blood off the sidewalk after the fact, but that Pit Bulls should be treated the same as dachshunds and deerhounds, and never mind the data, history, and common sense?
What restrictions are you willing to accept to ensure that fewer Pit Bulls end up in the hands of fools and thugs who end up abandoning these dogs to shelters or turning them over to dog fighting rings?
Or is that a problem you simply do not care about, or one that you do not think should not impinge on an "unalloyed freedom" to put your money down and buy whatever animal you want, from Lion to Giraffe?