Breed-Specific Banning? Not A Chance

By Kim Wolf
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 58 | Posted Mar. 16, 2010

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“They are just dogs. I repeat: They are just dogs.” This description of pit bulls was repeated by Donald Cleary of the National Canine Research Council during a panel discussion held March 8 at Drexel Law School titled, “The Importance of Creating Safe & Humane Communities for All People & Animals.” But judging by PW ’s March 9 editorial, “Banishing Acts: It’s a Pitty; Maybe it’s time for Philly to consider outlawing pit bulls,” this message still needs repeating.

Despite significant increases in both human and dog populations, Philadelphia has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of reported dog bites, including those inflicted by pit bulls. In 1971, Philadelphia had nearly 8,500 reported dog bites, compared with about 1,100 in 2006, according to the National Canine Research Council.

And although more than one in four Philadelphians currently has a dog, the unfortunate incidents that took place last month represented Philadelphia’s first fatal dog attack in more than a quarter century. A tragedy indeed, but hardly comparable to the 300-plus homicides our city had in 2009 alone. Not even close to the number of Philadelphians killed by cars, falling construction debris, bad weather or even bad food.

And who are these pit bulls anyway? Simply put, there is no such breed. Rather, the term “pit bull” describes an ever-expanding group of dogs that includes American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Cane Corsos, Dogo Argentinos, bull terriers, bulldogs, boxers and bullmastiffs, as well as any mixed-breed dog presumed by a dog warden or a cop, on the basis of appearance, to be a “pit bull.”

That being said: We do have a problem. However, the problem is not the “pit bull” belonging to Jacob Lambert’s neighbors—the dog he described as “friendly and enthusiastic” and “sits when he is told and generally heeds his master.” The problem is the system.

Philadelphia has failed to address the real villains who threaten our public safety— not the dogs, but the negligent humans who are responsible for them. These are the people who obtain dogs for unsavory tasks (e.g., guarding, fighting); who chain them in backyards or basements; who do not spay or neuter (a symptom of irresponsible ownership and one of several factors overwhelmingly correlated with dog attacks); who deprive them of adequate food and vet care; or who fail to exert control over their animals (and their children).

 Why aren’t politicians enacting anti-tethering laws? Why isn’t City Council providing more public support for spay and neuter facilities? Why don’t judges sentence dogfighting ring leaders and animal abusers to the fullest extent? A large part the problem, quite frankly, is the media.

 Contrary to what they’ve led us to believe, pit bulls are not inherently vicious, unpredictable, ticking time bombs. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that America embraced pit bulls as “America’s dog.” Remember Petey, the famed pup from Little Rascals? How about Sergeant Stubby, our nation’s beloved World War I mascot who was honored by three U.S. presidents? When the news portrays a particular breed or type of dog as “dangerous,” there is an immediate increase in the number of sub-standard owners who obtain those dogs and subsequently keep them in environments that are ripe for disaster. We’ve all seen the guy with a Napoleon complex who paid $1,500 for a “Broad Street Bully” with big balls and cropped ears. I adopted one of these “time bombs” (he was rescued by humane law-enforcement officers from a fighting operation). Where is that dog now? He’s a certified therapy dog who visits nursing homes and elementary schools. And he’s neutered.

So should Philadelphia consider outlawing pit bulls? For one, it’d be legally impossible, thanks to a Pennsylvania statute that preempts any local ordinance attempting to prohibit or otherwise limit a specific breed of dog. Paying for it presents another challenge. Best Friends Animal Society estimates that the annual cost for Philadelphia to enact breed-discriminatory legislation, which would impact an estimated 26,330 pit bull-type dogs, would be a cool $2,275,020.

And what do the experts say? It’s unanimous: The American Veterinary Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Animal Control Association, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and almost all animal-welfare organizations oppose breed-specific regulation.

Finally, history holds too many examples of humans using certain traits (e.g., skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin) as the basis for categorizing the “differentness” of another group to justify the subjugation, abuse or annihilation of that population. This psychological ploy is now being used against pit bulls, and both the dogs and their human companions suffer the tragic effects. And regardless of one’s feelings toward pit bulls, please think carefully before granting government officials the power to enter a person’s home, seize his property and then kill that property— which is precisely what happens when cities outlaw pit bulls. ■

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 58 of 58
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1. Anonymous said... on Mar 16, 2010 at 09:41PM

“Well said!! I am glad I am not the only person who sees BSL as the equivalent of "racial discrimination". Punish the deed, not the breed :)”

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2. Anonymous said... on Mar 16, 2010 at 09:58PM

“This is a very well composed and intelligent look at this issue. Seems the problem is that people are too eager to generalize and take what is hysterical myth and turn it into a mass paranoia. This problem is defined in my eyes by a lack of education. But I believe most people would not go for BSL or banning breeds. It's just not practical and it's also just mean spirited. I believe most people are kind and can see through the attempts to demonize one type of dog. It's time that those who believe the hype to consider what is right. I know they are afraid just like many others who have phobias but I ask that they take the time to consider facts and ask themselves if the fears are justified before a tragic mistake occurs and we have regrets over a "canine final solution". Where would that end? Once the "pit-bulls" are gone the next breed to go may be the breed of choice for those who fear the pit-bull. Consider that.”

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3. pitbull friend said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 12:48AM

“Thanks so much for this concise and well-written article, Kim. I love walking my delightful little pitbull boy around bad neighborhoods, where people do double-takes. Yep, middle-aged middle-class ladies do own and love pitbulls. There's nothing about being a pitbull that means you have to be owned by a hateful, violent person. It's a shame that the ones who are so often suffer tremendously. The best thing all of us can do is encourage enforcement of leash laws and anticruelty laws so that no dog has to grow up to be a fighter or otherwise abused.”

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4. All Dogs Big and Small said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 07:56AM

“Bark ON!!
First the Pit Bull, then The Doberman(all ready an attempt to ban on Military Bases) next the German Shepherd?
I,ve seen some pretty nasty Poodles , but the media doesn't print the small dog bites? I remain miffed at Edgar Snydar's Commercials!
No Dog, as no Human should be discriminated against based on breed/race.
Tay Czar (A Doberman)”

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5. Anonymous said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 08:25AM

“Ms Wolf - thank you for such a well reasoned and rational argument to an emotional issue. And thank you to PW for presenting both sides of the issue.”

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6. Walter said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 08:32AM

“Thank you so much for writing this. After reading Jacob Lambert's peice last week, you said everything I wanted to say buit you said it so much more eloquently and convincingly. Both me and my PAWS rescue pitty thank you, Kim.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 08:50AM

“I couldn't agree more. Great article, Kim. You took the words right outta my mouth!”

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8. Emily said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 08:56AM

“Well said, Kim!!! This is exactly the reasoned, thoughtful response our Philadelphians need. Pit bulls (and all dogs!!) everywhere - whether they are chained in a backyard or basement or lounging on their owner's couch right now - need advocates like you who continue to remind people that a dog is a dog is a dog and that people should be held accountable for their failure to care for their animals.

Thank you for speaking out!!”

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9. Lorrie said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 09:10AM

“Ditto from me!! Keep doing what you do, Kim. You rock!!”

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10. h00v3r said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 11:31AM

“There's an unspoken truth regarding what's really at the heart of any and all BSL initiatives: Straight up racism - because in the mind of a typical BSL proponent, only "those kinds of people" own "those kinds of dogs" - that's the only point this piece missed and it needs to be discussed more often. This is not conjecture - the racist undertones of BSL efforts have come to the surface in *every* community that has enacted or attempted to enact BSL - the evidence is there.”

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11. h00v3r said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 11:31AM

“There's an unspoken truth regarding what's really at the heart of any and all BSL initiatives: Straight up racism - because in the mind of a typical BSL proponent, only "those kinds of people" own "those kinds of dogs" - that's the only point this piece missed and it needs to be discussed more often. This is not conjecture - the racist undertones of BSL efforts have come to the surface in *every* community that has enacted or attempted to enact BSL - the evidence is there.”

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12. Julie Bamberger-Herrmann said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 11:47AM

“Kim Wolf's commentary was absolutely brillant ! I learned alot from her well-researched commentary & I salute her for bringing the true story to the forefront . I would love to meet her certified therapy dog who was rescued from a horrible life . Thanks for all you do, Kim !”

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13. kris said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 11:48AM

“thank you kim...those words are right on target and obviously speak for so many dogs and people”

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14. Alex Melonas said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 11:51AM

“Great article! The parallel you've drawn here between breed-ism or canine racism and racism (sexism, etc.) needs to be digested. Breed-ism is illogical in that "all dogs of a certain breed are tarred with the same brush," as Bernard E. Rollin writes. Similarly, racists see ALL members of a certain race as instantiating the same stereotypical, negative traits – all members of this race are a menace, they are dangerous, criminals, or whatever. But this fails to consider each dog, and each human, as an individual. This is social stupidity.

Jacob Lambert is wrong. I want to re-phrase Lambert’s final paragraph, but I’ll shift the object of his irrational prejudice. "Why couldn’t my landlord just rent to someone who isn’t black? He is a perfectly nice man, my neighbor; indeed, I like him very much. He smiles when I see him, and even brings me left-over’s. But when I see him walking by my apartment, that primal fear of the-other-person-who-is-“different” just creeps into my mind."”

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15. Alex Melonas said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 11:53AM

“Great article! The parallel you've drawn here between breed-ism or canine racism and racism (sexism, etc.) needs to be digested. Breed-ism is illogical in that "all dogs of a certain breed are tarred with the same brush," as Bernard E. Rollin writes. Similarly, racists see ALL members of a certain race as instantiating the same stereotypical, negative traits – all members of this race are a menace, they are dangerous, criminals, or whatever. But this fails to consider each dog, and each human, as an individual. This is social stupidity.

Jacob Lambert is wrong. I want to re-phrase Lambert’s final paragraph, but I’ll shift the object of his irrational prejudice. "Why couldn’t my landlord just rent to someone who isn’t black? He is a perfectly nice man, my neighbor; indeed, I like him very much. He smiles when I see him, and even brings me left-over’s. But when I see him walking by my apartment, that primal fear of the-other-person-who-is-“different” just creeps into my mind."”

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16. Anonymous said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 02:25PM

“Best article ever on the issue. Kim forgot one issue though. Instead of banning the breed, the city should neuter the owner of the dogs who attack people. Keeps the bad genes from spreading.”

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17. Carrie said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 03:03PM

“Brilliant article Kim! Wonderful information, short and to the point. Thank you, thank you, thank you! (And my rescued pit-mix thanks you too!)”

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18. Erin said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 04:02PM

“THANK YOU its seems its harder and harder these days to find a well researched article on "pit bulls".”

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19. h00v3r said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 04:29PM

“@Alex Melonas - I don't know if you were referring to my previous post or not but when I talk about racism being at the heart of BSL initiatives, I'm not talking about some anthropomorphized concept of "dog racism" - rather, I'm referring to actual, real human racism on the part of BSL proponents - once you get acquainted with the commentary and testimony of BSL proponents, it *always* slips out that their rationale includes an opinion about how these breeds are, supposedly, never owned by law abiding white people. This usually slips out at some point when you confront them with facts and they get argued into a corner.”

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20. Emily said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 05:37PM

“I love pit bulls, I've walked so many of these animals at the shelter. A holocaust for pit bulls in this city would be a mark upon this city's soul.”

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21. Rod@GoPetFriendly said... on Mar 17, 2010 at 07:50PM

“A very well-written article ... thanks Kim. I also find it interesting that (so far) no one has posted an opposing comment. Hard to argue with your logic. Hopefully, Philadelphians with pitties will band together like they did in Elgin, IL to defeat a BSL proposal there. Rock on!”

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22. Bianka said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 09:25AM

“Poetry. Kim, that was pure poetry.

So much so, that I flipped it to my local paper, in a province where BSL was enacted years ago.

Superbly written. I applaud you.”

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23. Anonymous said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 09:38AM

“Finally a little sanity and information grounded in reality (not media bias).
Good work Kim!”

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24. Cal&BrocksMom said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 10:00AM

“Ms. Wolf is a genius in her arguments against BSL. I wanted touch on the best point in Kim's argument: "Philadelphia [and indeed the surrounding suburbs]has failed to address the real villains who threaten our public safety— not the dogs, but the negligent humans who are responsible for them."

Having any animal companion is a LOT of work and having a "bully breed" is a job for someone who can provide them with exactly what they need to thrive. They need training, exercise, attention, rules and constructive playtime. If you are not willing or able to provide these things to ANY dog at all times, let alone a high-energy or a larger breed dog...you should not have one. Get a goldfish.

Thank you Ms. Wolf for your well-spoken and persuasive article.”

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25. Leila F said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 10:33AM

“Great article!”

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26. Teri said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 10:39AM

“Well said Kim! I applaud you (and Sarge!) Four years ago I knew virtually nothing about these (wonderful) dogs except what I heard and saw in the media.... now, after spending so much time with them volunteering, I adore them. They are loving and playful and, quite simply, just a "dog," like any other -- meant to be respected and loved as are all pets. Responsible pet ownership for any dog is key.”

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27. Anonymous said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 10:44AM

“Well said. BSL is racism pure and simple. Let's think about what would happen if we held an entire race of people responsible for the actions of a few. Sound fair? I think not. If we ban pit bulls the scum of our city will turn to another breed or mixture of breeds. It doesn't solve our problem. It's time we as a society hold people accountable for their actions or lack of action when it comes to owning dogs. Wake up Philly....Pit Bulls are not the enemy...their humans are!”

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28. Megan Drake, Philadelphia Animal Advocate Examiner said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 11:07AM

“Thorough, well written article that highlights the truth about BSL. A must read!”

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29. Tamira Ci Thayne said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 11:09AM

“Amen to that! And the biggest AMEN to anti-tethering laws! The second anti-tethering bill of the session is about to be released. Please join our coalition to stop this abuse at http://www.unchainpadogs.com”

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30. Sarah said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 11:20AM

“Actual facts in journalism...wonderful! Thank you for writing a fact filled article that educates. This IS about racism, based on myths that perpetuate in the media and society. Many genders, creeds, and cultures have suffered, and continue to suffer, because of this type of myth perpetuation. This victim can not speak. Pitbulls, and all dogs, need our voice, love, and support - facts and first hand experience.”

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31. Jenni13 said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 11:38AM

“Bravo, Kim! The best article I've ever read on this issue. You rock!!!!!”

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32. Anonymous said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 01:43PM

“Thank you Kim! Your presentation of actual facts is greatly appreciated regarding this topic! I find it fascinating that is wasn't too long ago that we celebrated these types of bully breeds as the nanny dog, war heroes, TV stars, and mascots. Now, through improper identification, breeding, use and care...this once celebrated bully breed is now greatly feared by society.”

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33. Al - Rescue Ink said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 02:10PM

“Kim, great article and important powerful facts!”

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34. Alex Melonas said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 02:44PM

“@h00v3r,

It isn't anthropomorphizing to label this "dog racism." As I argued above, the logical framework is equally operative in both breed-ism and racism. (It isn't anthropomorphizing to label something what it is, even if the being we are doing that something too is non-human.) So, while you may be correct in your assessment of the situation, I was directly commenting on the author of this articles' suggestion at the end that the parallels, as I've articulated them, hold true.”

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35. Madeleine said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 04:34PM

“my pit bull, Peaches, and i appreciate this article! spread the word!”

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36. terry said... on Mar 18, 2010 at 07:27PM

“Nurture over nature. -terry

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37. Luv-a-Bull said... on Mar 21, 2010 at 01:55PM

“Thank you so very much for this article! I own an APBT mix and have fostered several others; they've all been human loving, stable dogs. Yet we deal with daily discrimination based on their appearance; it's "breedism" at it's best. In fact, he has been attacked several times by so-called "family dogs," the worst involving a Golden Retriever. It was so violent that the GR's owner had to kick his dog in the head several times to get remove his dog from mine. So thank you for reminding people that dogs are just that: dogs, regardless of breed. And the canine's behavior is dependent upon who is handling it. This was such a welcome read after the Daily Beast's atrocity of an article titled "Get Rid of the Pit Bulls," such a piece of sensationalist garbage I have boycotted the publication and encourage any other bully lover/owner to do the same (or at least let the author know he's wrong via a comment). Thanks so much again!”

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38. Anonymous said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 07:13AM

“Excellent article. It's refreshing to read a well-researched, logical argument versus the typical fear-driven, anecedotal arguments of those who support BSL. It may be expecting too much for supporters of BSL to be persuaded by facts and reasoned arguments such as Wolf's, but hopefully this informative piece will help to educate others about the profound problems involved with BSL.”

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39. Anonymous said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 08:51AM

“She's paraphrasing what many folks in the animal welfare community have been saying for years.”

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40. Anonymous said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 09:01AM

“#39, what's your problem? We're all on the same team here.”

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41. Katie Dennis said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 09:17AM

“Thank you Kim. For weeks I've been reading sensationalist drivel on this subject and you finally brought the logic!”

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42. Kim Wolf said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 09:24AM

“#39, I wrote this article and you are absolutely correct: I am paraphrasing what the animal welfare community -- and others -- have been saying for years. These are not my "ideas"; rather, they are facts based on centuries of scientific data and research. These facts need repeating and I wrote this article in response to an uninformed opinion piece that ran the week prior to this. I'm glad that you recognize that these are not my "opinions" or "ideas."”

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43. Little Darling said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 09:37AM

“Absolutely spot on! As a speaker and attendee at the seminar, it was an amazing experience to sit amongst fellow intelligent, caring, and passionate individuals who work tirelessly for this fight against breed discriminatory laws.

Punish the deed, not the breed!

www.pinupsforpitbulls.com

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44. Anonymous said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 09:47AM

“I don't think #39 has a problem; rather, it might be some folks who were "offended" by a comment that was subsequently acknowledged by Ms. Wolf to be "absolutely correct."”

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45. Joanne Dixon said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 11:20AM

“Thank You Kim Wolf! Awesome article and I couldn't agree more.”

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46. Anonymous said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 11:47AM

“Amen to the article...nuff said!”

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47. Pete said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 12:20PM

“Bravo! As a responsible pit bull owner, articles like this make me smile. It is humans who destroy pit bulls, not the other way around. If you raise them properly, pit bulls are the greatest breed you could own.”

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48. TAMARA NOLAN said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 12:38PM

“NEVER JUDGE A DOG BY ITS BREED. IT'S A HUMAN PROBLEM. NOT A "PITBULL" PROBLEM. WE'RE SORRY THAT YOU DIDN'T GET TO KNOW US BEFORE YOU JUDGED US.”

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49. Krunch said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 01:19PM

“God bless you Kim Wolf. My dog is my best friend and I would need to be euthanized if she were taken away from me. I'm a responsible owner of a 6 year old spayed female rescue dog and after 6 years I'm pretty convinced SHE rescued me.”

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50. Anonymous said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 05:05PM

“my mothers 12 lb maltese is more vicious then my 60 lb pit bull.”

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51. selwyn marock said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 06:21PM

“A Very well written article and says it all barring 1 point,I have been fighting this law for nearly 10 years now and 1 other conclusion that beleive is that this law has very little to do with the dogs but rather unscrupulous and ambitious politicians who with the help of hype from the media they create a "FEAR and HATE" Campaign targetted at the "STUPID MASSES" that do make up a large percentage of the VOTERS,that is why in what I describe as the three Pariah areas,Hincklehooper of Denver,Mçguinty of Ontario and Miami-Dade County although in these 3 areas they are fully aware that BSL does not work,and is very costly to enforce,they will never repeal this law for fear of losing the voters they have "brainwashed" over many years,they would rather carry on Murdering 1000's of Family pets each year.Hence that WISHY-WASHY response from Hinklehooper of Denver.To me these type of people should be Criminally charged and at worst removed from positions of power.
smarock10@yahoo.com”

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52. Kimberly A. Lisacek said... on Mar 23, 2010 at 12:44PM

“Very well written. Keep up the great work.”

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53. Jen Lisacek said... on Mar 23, 2010 at 12:52PM

“Way to go, Kim!!!! I couldn't have said any of this better myself!!”

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54. Ontario said... on Mar 23, 2010 at 02:57PM

“Thank You for this great article Kim and thank you to the NCRC for all the great work that they have done and continue to do.”

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55. Friend of the Breed said... on Mar 24, 2010 at 07:43AM

“I have had a pitbull while living at home with my parents and he is such a great friendly dog. I would have people cross the street when I was walking hom because of their ignorance. We now have 2 toddlers in the family and he loves them and they love him. The 2 yr old girl loves him but is scared of them little dogs, what does that tell you when it is a child feeling this way. He is a great and wonderful part of the family I wish people would become more educated of the breed and stop with the ignorance. I recently adopted my on pittie girl and she is so good They did not know if she was good around cats but i took the chance since I already knew the breed and her and my 7 month old kitten get along like sisters run and playing with each other all the time. I just wish that people who never had the breed or know anything about them would keep their mouths shut because that negativity gets passed on, but the positvity of the Pitbull is becoming more well known whoch is so awesome!”

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56. Liz said... on Mar 25, 2010 at 05:07PM

“Great article informed and educational as well. I am tweeting this one for sure.”

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57. tonie brewster said... on Jun 24, 2010 at 10:57PM

“Any breed specific regulation is I believe a violation of the natural laws. This article has objectively presented both sides. I just hope authorities and opponents reach a consensus somehow. I read a similar article from http://www.mightystudents.com/”

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58. Anonymous said... on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:03PM

“Certainly, it is cruel and inhuman to propose neutering in animals as prophylactic I had almost 20 dogs during my span life. Obviously, is NORMAL that eventual attacks to humans occurs. ( I can recall 2 requiring soap and water and some antibiotics ) Situations may happened. like someone stepping over my dog's tail ( I am sure I have to be blamed because I didn't cut it) or a teenager "playing" with my dog hitting his head with a baseball bat. We should accept this as a NORMAL component of human-dog interactions. Of course dogfighting training is not natural as well being afraid of our environment or filthy personal injury lawyers...”

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