Statement by DC Dog Coalition on Animal Control in District of Columbia

DC Dog Coalition believes that dog-related problems in the District are due to irresponsible ownership and abuse of animals, along with a failing animal control system and inadequate laws. In any incident involving a dog attack, DCDC is in favor of maximum punishment for the owner of the dog involved - recognizing that laws governing animal control in the District are very weak.

A proposed "pit bull" ban is merely a way of avoiding pressing inadequacies in the DC animal control system. It would divert resources to rounding up dogs which do not bite. It would also separate perfectly good dogs from good homes. This is not in keeping with the mission of any "humane" organization.

Dogbite incidents and attacks in the District can easily be prevented if DC had a normal and functioning animal control system, and if people were educated on responsible dog ownership. This statement is divided in three parts: 1) Animal control in the District is a failure; and 2) Are "pit bulls" dangerous? 3) "Pit bull" bans don't work.

DC ANIMAL CONTROL IS A FAILURE

1) DC does not have enough animal control officers. Currently, we have one animal control officer and one "humane officer" (whose function is unclear) on duty during peak hours. Baltimore, a city of comparable size, has three animal control officers on duty. DC animal control, rather than patrolling, can only answer to calls.

2) There is no effective enforcement of animal control laws in the District. DC Animal Control officers lack the most essential means of enforcement, which animal control officers in virtually every other US city take for granted: the ability to write offenders a ticket. Currently, only Metro Police have this ability.

3) DC animal control laws are weak. If an irresponsible owner of a vicious dog in DC allows it to run loose, the fine is only $25.00, and a police officer must be present to issue the citation. In Los Angeles and Baltimore, an animal control officer can issue a citation of $100.00 on the spot.

DC Dog Coalition has presented the DC City Council with the following legislative proposals, based on leash laws in LA and Takoma, Washington:

1) Give animal control officers the ability to issue citations;
2) Increase fines;
3) Make dogfighting a felony;
4) Add felony offenses and $1,000 fines for
a) using a dog to threaten someone,
b) use a dog in the commission of a crime,
c) interfere with the activities of a public safety official;
5) A $500.00 fine for owners of dogs which habitually bark, jump on and threaten people;
6) DC needs at least two more animal control officers, who should not be deployed at the kennel but in neighborhoods, particularly in Ward 8 and other areas with a large number of dogbite incidents.

ARE PIT BULLS DANGEROUS?

1) DC Dog Coalition estimates that there are roughly 4,000 to 7,000 pit bulls in the District of Columbia. Last year, there were 71 bites involving these dogs, representing LESS THAN 1.5% OF THESE DOGS. Overall, the vast majority of "pit bulls" in the District - over 98% of them - have not bitten anyone in the last year.

2) In FY 1999, there were 325 dogbite incidents in the District of Columbia. 59% of dogbite incidents occurred when owners, either through negligence or on purpose, allowed their dogs to run free. 26% occurred in a yard or home. Only 3% occurred while a dog was on a leash. Therefore, almost 2/3 of dogbite incidents in the District are due to owner irresponsibility and/or negligence. Simply getting people to control their dogs would address 2/3 of our dog problem.

3) By breed: Mixed breed dogs were involved in 33% of the dogbite incidents in the District. "Pit bulls" were involved in 21% of incidents (the category "pit bull" includes three breeds). German Shepherd mixes were involved in 8%, as were pure-bred Rottweilers. Therefore, by the logic of some members of the City Council, mutts should be banned from the District.

4) There is yet to be any conclusive scientific study that shows that "pit bulls" are more likely to bite than any other dogs. There is no scientific evidence that they have "locking jaws" or a "2000 lbs per square inch bite."

5) The biggest factor in the behavior of any dog is how it is treated by its owner, not its breed.

PIT BULL BANS DON'T WORK

1) A study by Centers for Disease Control in 1996 concluded that banning a certain breed of dogs is useless in decreasing dog attacks.

2) The International City/County Management Association, in a compendium of "best practices" in animal control, does not recommend breed bans. Other humane organizations which oppose breed bans are the National Animal Control Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Dog Owner's Association, and the American Kennel Club.

3) The City of Cincinnati, one of the first to ban "pit bulls" 13 years ago, has voted to repeal its ban because it did not work. The cost of the ban was $2500 per dog. It failed to reduce dog bites, and was considered to be inhumane by the local Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The states of Florida, Oklahoma, Washington, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California forbid their cities and towns from banning a certain breed of dog.

For more information contact DCDC at http://members.xoom.com/dcdcoalition
dogcoalition@yahoo.com
(202)462-3603
(202)518-3230