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Tony Hill’s Dog Bill Ruffed Up in Senate Committee

Forget about budget cuts, tax breaks and overhauling Medicaid.

The legislation drawing perhaps the most lobbying attention so far this session debuted Thursday when Sen. Tony Hill’s proposal to give cities and counties more authority to ban dangerous dogs came up in a committee. The measure was approved 9-2 by Senate Community Affairs, but not before a long line of dog advocates sought to curb the legislation.

Most feared it would lead to specific local bans on pit bulls. And most said such sanctions would prove unnecessary and impossible to enforce.

“It’s discriminating against a specific breed,” said Connie Brooks of St. Petersburg, representing the Tampa Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). “It’s not a bad breed. And how do we start classifying which dogs are pit bulls?”

Ernie Sims, of Tallahassee, father of the Detroit Lions linebacker of the same name, said he’s owned a pit bull for more than seven years and that the dog is very gentle. He said the most troublesome pet he owns is a three-legged Jack Russell terrier.

“It’s all about being a good pet owner,” Sims said in opposition to the bill.

While the legislation (SB 1276) was amended by Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, to prohibit local governments from imposing regulations on specific breeds, Hill acknowledged that the proposal’s original intent was directed at pit bulls.

Current state law, enacted in 1990, allows local governments to take action against dangerous dogs after a complaint is made and served on the owner, who can appeal the classification to county court. Afterward, the owner may be required to register the dog with local animal control and, depending on the severity of the dog’s actions, it may be ordered impounded or even destroyed.

The law prohibits regulations by breed, although Miami-Dade County and several municipalities there were allowed to retain restrictions already in place on pit bulls. Florida is among only 12 states that prohibit breed-specific regulations.

Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, sponsor of similar legislation (HB 543) told the committee a woman in his district is forced to walk with a stick or baseball bat in fear of neighborhood pit bulls.

Sen. Rudy Garcia, R-Hialeah, told Thurston he should tell the woman about “dog deterent” spray, similar to that issued to postal delivery workers.

“I’m not familiar with that,” Thurston replied. “But she’s been using a Louisville Slugger.”

Hill’s legislation is scheduled for two more committee stops in the Senate.

8 Responses »

  1. I agree with Sims, it's not the dogs or the breed, it's the owners. So what do we do about them? That is what the legislation should be looking at. I was afraid of pits also as I was bitten by one. The owner failed to tell me he was blind in one eye. The dog was protecting his female. Again, the owner "FAILED" not the dog, He could have done more damage, but didn't. My cousin has two pit mixes, I was leary at first, but they are the gentlest dogs. Don't get me wrong, they are protective, but they are not vicious. AGAIN, it is NOT THE DOGS.

  2. I own a pitbull and he is sweet. If the dogs are raised right they are good dogs. These people who raise them to fight cause the dog to be mean it is all about the owner not the dog.

  3. I own an AmStaff, which is a variation of a pit bull...she's the sweetest thing on four legs, unless you bother me, which is why we have her. She loves kids, cats, and other dogs. Why should the government have any say over a dog that is here to protect me??? Are THEY going to do something for me the next time my house is broken into, or I'm harrassed while at the store? I doubt it. This bill is such a waste of tme and money, and there are more critical issues to be addressed.

  4. I think Pit Bulls should be outlawed....No matter how kind they seem they do have an hereditary mean streak in them and will defend their owners ( as many admit ) without regard to others.My son has a big scar on his arm due to a child letting the door come open where his PET pit Bull was after inviting my son in the house...Yes he was a pet but could not distinguish between no danger and danger to his master. Now my son will be maimed for life....there was no need for this. An aggresive animal he was no matter how much of a "Pet" he was for the 8 year old boy.

  5. Granted, a pit bull is less likely to pose a danger to humans based on the treatment it receives from its owners. However, pit bulls are still substantially more aggressive than almost any other canine breed. And this is strictly based on breeding, not on the treatment from their owners. They are also responsible for over 32% of all fatalities to humans and over 60% of non-fatal injuries caused by canine bite trauma. The breed needs to be eliminated.

  6. I, too, have a pit-bull who stands out as the most loving animal I have ever owned. Quickly, a fresh dog breed will come along to the media to blast, because they have carried out rotties and dobies in earlier years. Unfortunate that media sensationalism breeds much inaccurate facts.

  7. I have a 8 month old female Pit Bull and she is so incredibly gentle. I have two cats and she plays with them and never goes too far. I recently brought home a 2 lb Shihtzu and she licks him and plays and is so gentle with him. He jumps on her back and bites at her and she just lays there and lets him. If we are out in the front yard and another dog runs by or people or children, she stands there and looks. She doesn't bark or run at them or anything. She is this way because the moment we got her, we've socialized her with people and other dogs. Yes a dog can be gentle to their own family and not to others, but if those dogs had been socialized, they won't react vicious when other people or dogs come around. It is all in how a dog is raised. We don't discriminate against races of people, there is no reason why we should against dogs. I could not have a more gentle dog and shes's a 58 pound dog that loves on my 2 lb dog. Anyone who thinkgs differently is just ignorant and have only been around unsocialized pits and that is the owner's fault. Pets are like our children, would you want to put your child down for getting in a fight with someone else?

  8. Arthritis in canines can be a huge issue that many people never even think of in older dogs.