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Consalvo Op-Ed: Let Boston Collar Vicious Pit Bulls

Consalvo was the author of Boston's pit bull-specific laws that being overrode by a state animal welfare law starting in November.

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.

Andrea Cherez October 23, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Breed specific bans are just not fair to the majority of dog owners who are responsible. And they haven't been enforceable anyway. Rarely have I seen a pit bull muzzled in public. When I have, it's usually a very calm, well behaved dog that doesn't need it. To better protect the public, I think laws should be strengthened so that guardians are held criminally liable for any attacks by their dogs as if the guardian had committed the attack themselves. It would seriously get the attention of all and it would be a law that the police actually have the manpower to enforce.
Juli H. October 26, 2012 at 02:57 AM
To read what Mr. Consalvo wrote, one would think that Boston's pit bull ordinance would prevent incidents like the one he mentioned. But no, that happened while we did have a pit bull ordinance. This just proves that the ordinance does nothing but punish responsible dog owners. I would like to know how, of the incidents in Boston involving "pit bulls" and either people or other dogs, since the Councilor Consalvo's law was first enacted, how many of these involved licensed pit bulls. I would bet it is a very low to zero percentage, but this is not information that animal control will release. This is the kind of information that would show that the extra $44 a pit bull owner pays in licensing ($50 compared to $6 for a "non pit bull") was actually making a difference. But it does nothing but cause extra hassle for responsible dog owners. I have met Councilor Consalvo when he first proposed this now-defunct ordinance, and he is a very nice person and does a lot of great things for the city, but his ordinance is based on one faulty premise: that "pit bulls" are inherently dangerous and vicious dogs. This just isn't true. Furthermore, there is no clear cut way to identify a pit bull, making it a ridiculous way to define a restrictive law. The MSPCA is just one of many animal welfare groups who are against breed-specific legislation. In fact, they were instrumental in getting the statewide law passed. The new statewide law is an excellent piece of legislation.
Juli H. October 26, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Furthermore, the way to protect people and other dogs is to enforce the laws we already have, and educate people (especially kids) about what it means to be kind and compassionate to animals. If anyone is interested in more information, www.animalfarmfoundation.org and www.mspca.org are great resources. Thanks.

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