Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 14, 2013

Pit bull owners speak out against proposed breed ban

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Pit bull owners in Bluefield are calling a proposed ban of the breed uninformed and prejudicial, though city leaders maintain the ordinance is in the best interest of public safety

Pit bull owner, Mandy Bowles recently moved to Bluefield but said she would not have settled in the city if she had known about the ban proposed by the city Board of Directors.

“My pit is 6 months old and I moved here in December,” Bowles said Wednesday. “If I had known there would be this much of a ruckus I wouldn’t have moved to Bluefield. This disgusts me. My pit doesn’t have a mean bone in her. My pit is an indoor dog. She stays in the house. She goes out to use the bathroom, but is literally a house dog. She is more likely to lick someone to death than anything. I think if someone is considering moving to Bluefield and they do have pets, they might not want to live in this area. I refuse to have someone come in my home and take my dog. That is an invasion of my privacy and my rights. That violates my own personal views in my home.”

Bowles said she feels it is unfair to classify all pit bulls as aggressive.

“I know there are some dogs that are aggressive and are mean, but they need to get to know my dog,” Bowles said. “I’ve owned pit bulls for years and I’ve never owned one that is aggressive. My pit bull protects my daughter-in-law who is pregnant and I would never worry about my dog around her. Incidents have happened with other animals, but you don’t hear about banning those animals. I have seen Chihuahuas  meaner than pits.”

Bowles said she feels the city needs to do better work to enforce animal ordinances already on the books before passing rules regarding any certain breed.

“I think the city needs to start enforcing leash laws and loose dog laws before they try to ban pit bulls,” she said. “There are so many other things going like vandalism, drugs and people committing crimes, but instead of working on that they are wanting to pick on animals that are only acting the way they are because of the way humans have taught and treated them. Experts say pit bulls are loving, family pets that are only mean when they are abused or mistreated by people.”

Bowles said the city would be better off policing people rather than animals.

“This proposal breaks my heart because I know there are dogs that they have issues with, but it’s not the dogs’ fault; it comes from people,” she said. “They need to start with the people, not the dogs. When they ban pit bulls and see there are still aggressive animals, what are they going to do next? Are they going to ban all animals?”

Teresa Callaway of Bluefield also owns a pit bull she describes as a “sweetheart.”

“I have owned my dog for two years,” Callaway said. “He stays in the house, but when he’s out I walk him on the leash and don’t let him get loose. I don’t like to see any dog run loose. I can understand being concerned about the people who let their dogs run loose, but it isn’t the dogs themselves. It’s the people who raise these dogs rather than the dogs. All of the dogs I’ve ever felt put in danger by were those small breeds. I’d rather have a pit than a small dog any day. This just hurts responsible pet owners rather than going after the people who don’t take care of their dogs.”

Mayor Linda Whalen said the city has received a lot of feedback both for and against the proposed ban.

“We have been receiving a lot of comments,” Whalen said. “Certainly we understand people’s concerns, but this is a proposed ordinance. We haven’t taken a vote on it. People have until 10 days after the ordinance passes — if it does — to be in compliance with the ordinances of the city regarding keeping their pit bull. Every person who has a pit bill in this city right now has an opportunity to have that animal legal in the city. This would prohibit new pit bills being brought into the city 10 days following passage of the ordinance. People have an opportunity to keep their dog and keep them legal; they just can’t get a new one if the ordinance passes. I know statistics state that one in every 17 days someone in the U.S. is killed by a pit bull and 60 percent of those people are family members of the dog owner.”

Whalen said she disagrees that the ordinance would penalize responsible pet owners.

“We are certainly respectful of different opinions, but we also have a great concern for the safety of adults and children in this community,” she said. “We have many instances of people being injured by pit bulls. I don’t think this is just penalizing responsible owners like some people have said. I know of an incident within the last few weeks that happened in the city limits where a pit bull that was in a fenced-in backyard. The dog got loose and mauled the neighbor’s dog. That same neighbor has two young children who could have just as easily been in the yard. It isn’t just the pit bulls that are running loose. We are not just talking about pit bulls running loose in the street. The dog that attacked our animal control officer was a pit bull that was chained, though the dog’s environment was not legal according to city ordinance. The animals that are running loose are not the only ones creating these incidents.”