Anyone has the right to own a pet. But everyone has the right to be protected from other people’s pets - especially when what should be “Man’s Best Friend” turns into “Public Enemy Number One.”
In the City of Boston, we continue to have problems with vicious pit bulls wreaking havoc on our city streets. Most recently, in a scene that has replayed itself over and over in every Boston neighborhood, two pit bulls went on a rampage in East Boston that only ended when a police officer had to discharge his weapon on a public street to stop the attacks. Every year data collected from the city’s animal control department consistently shows that pit bulls attack both humans and other dogs at a far greater rate than any other breed. The statistics simply don’t lie.
Years ago, in order to address the danger associated with vicious pit bulls, I authored an ordinance that doesn’t ban the ownership of pit bulls, but it does require owners to responsibly control their dogs and protect their neighbors and their pets. The ordinance requires pit bull owners to muzzle these potentially dangerous dogs whenever they are on public property. It limits the number of pit bulls a Boston resident can own to two and requires owners to mark all entrances and exits on private property where these dogs are kept, clearly warning that there is a pit bull on the premises. And, equally important, it requires that all pit bulls be spayed or neutered to discourage overbreeding and to reduce their aggressiveness.
Recently, without consulting Boston, the State Legislature passed a law wiping out Boston’s pit bull ordinance. The new law prohibits any breed specific law in any city or town in Massachusetts. Soon, our public safety personnel and animal control officers will have one less tool to deal with this explosive situation. This one size fits all approach is bad legislation and is wrong for Boston. Boston, and all local cities and towns, should have the right to decide what works for them to keep their citizens safe. We listened to our constituents, our public safety officials and our animal control experts who all asked for Boston’s very important law controlling pit bulls. State government should do the same.
The Boston City Council doesn’t like to intrude in the private lives of Boston citizens. But when the private choices of residents – like their choice of a pet - intrudes on the public safety, then it’s up to city government to act. Boston is a great city in which to live, work, raise families - and even own pets. But let’s make sure we protect people from some of those dangerous pets – especially when all the evidence suggests this kind of protection is necessary.
Editor's note: City Councilor Rob Consalvo represents District 5, which includes Roslindale and Hyde Park.