Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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April 13, 2008

Dog owners don’t muzzle opinions on new ordinance

BLUEFIELD — Should pit bulls and other dog breeds with reputations for biting always be muzzled? Local dog owners have differing views of a new dangerous animal ordinance recently passed by the Bluefield Board of Directors.

The directors voted unanimously April 8 to overhaul the city’s dangerous animal ordinance. Registered pit bulls and wolf-hybrid dogs must now be secured by a leash no longer than six feet in length and under the control of a person 18-years-old or older who has the physical ability to control the dog. Such dogs must also wear a muzzling device when outside their kennels.

Pit bulls are frequently used in illegal dog fights. They also have a reputation for attacking people without provocation, but there are pit bull owners who argue that labeling all examples of the breed vicious is unfair.

Jennifer Sullivan of Bluefield, who keeps a pit bull named Empress, emphasized that her dog was anything but dangerous.

“You can come in and she will lick you to death. She loves children, she loves people,” Sullivan said. “We have a cat, and she won’t even bite our cat. She loves other animals. That’s why I can’t understand why they say all pit bulls are vicious and need to be registered. They say they need to be muzzled, but I will never muzzle her because I think it’s very cruel to muzzle an animal if they’re not mean.”

Empress was a puppy when Sullivan acquired her. “I think it’s all in how pit bulls are raised. I’ve been bitten by two Chihuahuas and I’ve never been snapped at by a pit bull,” Sullivan said.

However, Sullivan added that she and her Carolina Avenue neighbors have been harassed by a large stray mutt. The dog has lingered in the neighborhood “for years,” she said.

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