Disturbing rumors about the propensity of Pit bull dogs having “a strong instinct for dominance” and a “prey drive that results in the aggressive pursuit of…human children” has created a witch hut to ban the dogs, in the small town of Mashpee, Massachusetts.
These troubling statements are just part of the language used in a proposed bylaw that will be heard in a Town Hall Meeting, in October. According to the Cape Cod Times, the breed specific legislation would limit the number of pit bulls an owner is allowed to have in town to one and mandate the euthanization or removal of puppies born in the future.
The misguided bylaw reads, “In the event (a pit bull type dog has) a litter, the owner or keeper must deliver the puppies to the Town Kennel for destruction… Any pit bull puppies kept contrary to the provisions of this subsection are subject to immediate impoundment and disposal.”
The goal of the proposed new law is to hunt down all pit bull dogs and pit bull mixes and destroy their offspring. Discussion of the bylaw has created rash decisions and panic that is similar to the witch hunts which took place in Massachusetts more than 300 years ago. And just like the Salem witch hunts, decisions are being made on unfounded facts and speculation.
The problem began when Brendan Lopes and Tiffany Mendes started to build a new home for their family next door to Carmen and Melissa Shay. The Shay family has two small daughters ages 6 and 8 that love to play in their backyard. The Lopes-Mendes family consists of their 11-year-old son and six pit bull dogs, who also love to play in the yard. A fence separates the two families. The Shay family looks at the situation as a disaster waiting to happen to their small children.
On the other hand, the Lopes-Mendes family thinks of their dogs as “brothers and sisters” to their boy. And when they moved-in they went to the town board to obtain a kennel permit so their four-legged family members would be law-abiding residents.
That’s when the Shay’s objected and started a petition to ban the dogs. They only needed 10 signatures, but were able to 19 neighbors to sign. The strongly worded bylaw was drafted as a result of the petition and rumors.
“All of my dogs are very social family dogs. We’re all for this (licensing hearing). It weeds out irresponsible dog owners. We’re just trying to live the American dream,” said Brendan Lopes. The dogs are named: Mischief, Smokey, Killian, Romeo, Justice and Lyannough.
The Shay’s are fueling the controversy by giving out unfounded facts about pit bull dogs and posting pictures of random people who have been attacked or bitten by pit bulls in the past. Melissa Shay said, “You can take all the precautions you want, but you can’t ensure that one (dog) won’t escape and get a kid playing baseball or a mother pushing her child on the swings. We feel it could be catastrophic.”
The local veterinary clinic has tried to be a voice of reason for the town, by letting residents know that pit bulls are not more aggressive than other breeds and informing everyone that banning specific breeds does not cut down on dog bites and attacks. (Studies of pre and post dog bites in the U.K. and Spain both concluded that pit bull bans had no effect on reducing dog bites.)
The propaganda being spread in Mashpee is reminiscent what happened in Denver, CO. They ended-up passing one of the toughest pit bull bans in the country that put to death thousands of dogs and had officials searching door-to-door for non-compliant owners. Denver is scheduled soon to hear a proposal to revise that law.
Animal welfare organizations are asking people to write to their legislators before October 19th, asking them to remove this proposed bylaw from the town hall meeting agenda.
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