About A couple of years ago ago here in Boston, a special pit-bull restrictions law was implemented, or they at least attempted to implement it. Given the special dangers that Pit-bulls present, I believe that a restriction on these dogs is a good thing. Nobody is asking pit-bull owners to get rid of their pets, but the owners ARE being asked to take the responsibility that goes along with owning such a dog. Here's why I support this kind of restriction on pitbulls:
First, we'll start with a little bit of history as to how Pit-Bulls came into being. The pit-bull is a cross breed between a REGULAR bull-dog and a terrier. The American Bulldog, which is NOT to be confused with the pitbull, btw, was originally bred as a work dog, either used by farmers in ploughing and tilling or used in sheepherding AND for protecting the herd of sheep or cattle against marauders such as wolves, etc. If a member of the herd seemed unable to catch up to the rest, the bulldog would nip the lagging member of the herd in the ribs, and then corkscrew the herd member to the ground, hence forcing them to catch up to the rest of the flock.
They were primarily used in the rural south for this purpose. Later, however, with the advent of herding machines that were used to control the herds, the bull-dog ultimately disappeared from the scene. The terrier, on the other hand, was primarily bred and designed to kill rats that ended up on board ships with immigrants who crossed over from the old world to the United States. Hence, the terrier provides the pitbull with the aggressive and combative temperament. Later, however, British bulldogs, which were much tougher and had a much more powerful jaw also came into existence. Hence, the pitbull that's known here in the United States today developed what's known as the "steel-trap" or locking jaw.
All of this is not to say that OTHER dogs don't have a ferocious temperament, or can't inflict serious damage when they bite, because they can. However, (some of you may well disagree with me here, which is OK), the pitbull poses a special risk to non-owners AND owners alike. Here's why: First of all, pitbulls, unlike most dogs, have been bred primarily for fighting, and as attack dogs. Their genetic breeding (a combo of bulldog & terrier) gives it the kind of temperament that makes many owners and other people select such dogs to train as fighters. Drug dealers often use them to protect their stash of drugs and territory, and other people who train them for dog fights train them to fight to the death, which pitbulls often will do.
This is not to say that ANY dog, under certain circumstances, can't snap and become aggressive and combative. However, unlike most dogs, including dobermans, rottweilers, and some other species, pitbulls have what is called a "steel-trap", or locking jaw, which is actually constructed differently than the jaws of most other dogs. Unlike most dogs, who will bite and immediately release their hold and back off, and then bite again if they want, and also immediately release their grip, pitbulls tend to not only bite, but to clamp down and hold on to their prey, and have even been known to shake their prey around like a toy, unlike most dogs.
More to the point, unlike other dogs, the bite of a pitbull actually penetrates into the musculature of their prey, therefore inflicting even more horrific damage. Babies and small children have been attacked without provocation and even killed by pitbulls. There was a horrific story last fall of a 12-year-old boy in San Francisco who was killed when two pitbulls that were not muzzled by the owners, attacked, mauled and killed the boy in a San Francisco park. A few years before, a woman was attacked and killed by two pit-bulls in her San Francisco apartment building, also without provocation, when the owners did not keep them under control and muzzled.
Earlier this year, (I saw this on the 11 o'clock news), a 16-year-old girl in suburban Belmont, MA., was walking her dog one evening when they were attacked by an unmuzzled pitbull. The pitbull bit, clamped down and started to shake the girl's dog around like a toy. The 16-year-old girl bravely went and pried the pitbull's jaws off of her dog. Both she and her dog sustained some rather nasty-looking injuries, which left some deep scars; they were treated, and were OK.
Another horrific case occurred in Boston, where a woman's dog was severely mauled and seriously injured when an unmuzzled pitbull attacked them. A neighbor who was walking by came to the woman and dog's aid and rescued the woman and her pet dog by clubbing the pitbull to death with a baseball bat. The dog who was attacked barely survived. Back earlier this year, also, in downtown Boston, an out-of-controll pitbull attacked a police officer, who ended up having to shoot the pitbull in order to get the pitbull off of him. This occurred in broad daylight, and there were many people around. There was a potential danger here too--the unmuzzled pitbull could've also resulted in an innocent bystander getting hurt or killed.
Contrary to what many people believe, it's not just "the owner". Pitbulls are not like any other dog. Not only are their bites more dangerous and inflict much deeper, more serious injury than the bites of most other dogs, but pitbulls are even more likely than other dogs to attack just out of the blue, without any provocation whatsoever, which in all the above-mentioned cases, the pitbull did.
Furthermore, even a pitbull who has supposedly been "bred to be gentle" can and will snap, and attack out of the blue, with horrific results. I know a woman whose family had a dog who was a pitbull mix when she was growing up. When she was quite small, the dog turned and attacked her out of the blue, biting her in the face, clamping down on her nose and holding on, until the father finally got the dog off, and, ultimately got rid of it. The woman has a deep scar on her nose because of that incident. Not surprisingly, pitbulls have also been known to turn on their owners in a number of cases.
Here's what the pitbull restrictions law entails (or would entail):
All pitbull owners are required to have their pitbulls on a leash AND to have them muzzled when taking them out in public. Owners are also required to put warning signs outside their property to warn guests, clients, meter readers, etc., of the presence of pitbulls on the property. I believe that, since pitbulls DO present a special danger, not so much because of their temperaments, but because of their bites, that this is not so much to ask of the pitbull's owner. The owner is NOT being asked to get rid of his/her pet, but to take the responsibility that goes along with owning a pitbull.
Having said all of the above, I believe that if and when the owner of a pitbull refuses to complly with this law s/he should be prepared to take the responsibility for the consequences. If, for example, the owner of a pitbull refuses to muzzle his/her pitbull when s/he takes their dog out in public and the dog seriously injures or kills a person, or another person's pet, the pitbull's owner should be prepared to pay the doctor's and/or veterinary bills that the injured person or the owner of the injured or dead pet would ordinarily end up paying, OR, be faced with a stiff fine, and/or short imprisonment by the city if the pitbull owner doesn't complay, AND, be prepared to pay the cost of the funeral/burial/crematorial processes that would ordinarily be paid for by the injured or dead pet's owner.
All of the above having been said, I believe that the pitbull restriction is perfectly moderate and reasonable, and a way to address what is a real public safety issue without putting undue hardship on pet owners. To reiterate my position on this subject, while it's important to keep dogs on a leash when taking them out in public, and to train and control them, it's especially important that pitbulls be kept under forceful control, due to the special risks that these particular dogs present.