The Prince George’s County Council voted 7-4 in favor of a measure that effectively keeps the Maryland county’s pit bull ban in place.
Council members debated the issue during a session in which they discussed the larger topic of updating the county’s policies on animal control.
Prince George’s County is the only jurisdiction in the D.C. region that has a breed-specific ban. The pit bull ban — which includes breeds such as American Staffordshire terriers and other so-called “bully breeds” — has been in place since 1997.
Council member Sydney Harrison told his colleagues the current ban doesn’t keep the dogs out of the county.
“If we’re sitting up here and say that pit bulls don’t exist in Prince George’s County, we’re all lying to each other,” Harrison said.
Every year, hundreds of pit bulls are impounded by animal control, and many of those are euthanized.
Instead Harrison said, the council should ask some serious questions about the current ban: “Is it effective? Is it being enforced? What is the cost and effect of having this ban in place?”
Harrison said the emphasis should be on laws that make owners of all dogs accountable.
“I’ve met pit bulls throughout my whole entire life. There are some very, very, very gracious pit bulls. But there’s also some very mean dogs wherever you go,” he said.
Rodney Streeter, the vice chair of the council, agreed that no matter what the council decides, that owners of dangerous dogs should be held responsible for their pets. But he was reluctant to do away with the 22-year ban. Even if the council approved measures to require dog owners to provide adequate fencing, microchip their dogs and register them, Streeter said, “I just don’t have faith that behaviors will change.”
Council member Jolene Ivey advised the council against doing away with the ban during Tuesday’s session. She said the public should have more chances to weigh in.
“I’ve heard from people who want to lift the ban; I’ve heard from people who not only want to keep the ban, they want it more strongly enforced,” Ivey said.
Tuesday’s action keeps the ban in place, but doesn’t end the debate on how county policies should be written.
“It’s not going to get less contentious,” Council member Derrick Leon Davis advised his colleagues, adding that there would be public outcry on both sides. “So populism is not your friend in this situation.”
A public hearing on the county’s animal control policies has been scheduled for Nov. 19.
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