Following attack, officials talk about local dog safety laws

Police say this dog bit two children. In Prince George\'s County, there is a ban on pit bulls. (Courtesy of Prince George\'s County Police)

WASHINGTON – After a pit bull bit two children in Prince George’s County, officials are talking about the county’s ban on the breed.

The loose dog in Clinton, Md., chased and attacked the 6- and 13-year-old boys Monday. They sustained arm and face injuries and were treated at a local hospital.

Chief Rodney Taylor, associate director of the Prince George’s County Animal Management Division, says it was thought the ban would stop dog attacks back when the law was enacted in 1996. But it didn’t, and Taylor said he believes it’s a cultural issue.

“I can only believe certain cultures, certain generations came through and started using these dogs to fight,” Taylor says.

“And they just mistreated the dogs so bad, that dog has gotten a bad name.”

Others from neighboring counties and the District expressed a similar outlook.

“I think a lot of people started using them for the wrong reasons. They took a wonderful family pet and emphasized the dog fighting and the images that pop culture started putting in front of us,” says Vice President of External Affairs for the Washington Humane Society Scott Giacoppo.

The District has no ban on breeds, nor does Fairfax or Montgomery counties.

What they emphasize instead is tough adoption restrictions, according to Kristen Auerbach, community outreach program manager for Fairfax County Animal Shelter.

“You need to be 25 years of age, you have to own a home, you have to undergo a background check and you have to agree to take the dog to obedience training,” Auerbach says.

Capt. Michael Wahl and his staff at the Montgomery County Police Animal Services Division monitor all dog bites and investigate serious incidents. But Wahl says a dog doesn’t have to bite to be designated as potentially dangerous. It just has to exhibit behavior that causes alarm.

First, the owner gets a warning and is ordered to comply with restrictions for taking the dog out of the house. If the dog should show any future signs of bad behavior, it’s deemed a dangerous dog and is taken into police custody. The owner can appeal, but the end result may not be a happy one.

In the Prince George’s County attack, the owner was arrested for not complying with the ban. He could be fined $1,000 and get up to six months in jail, according to Taylor.

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